Posts Tagged blueberries

Vegan Weekends (or, The Post of Many Pictures)

Against my predictions, June was just as crazy for me as May, if not a bit crazier.  Almost every day of every weekend was booked, and then some.  So without further ado, here’s what I’ve been up to for the last five weekends…

The first weekend of June we had some friends join in on our tailgating for an A’s game and bf and I kind of went all out.  BF has been interested lately in making our own buns for hamburgers, which translates into ME making our own buns for hamburgers.  I had seen some loaves of Easy French Bread from La Dolce Vegan floating around the blog world, so I made some buns using that recipe.

I forgot to add the sesame seeds until after the second rise, and in adding them and trying to make sure they didn’t fall off I basically pressed all the rise out of the buns, so they were a little flatter then I wanted.  They tasted good though, and were definitely sturdy enough to stand up to burgers.

I don’t know what got in to me, but I had a mad desire to make Ramen Slaw, which is a dish commonly found at southern pot lucks and the like.  I found and followed a recipe online, but for the life of me I can’t find it again.  I’ll post up the link when I get home.

Ramen slaw, up close and personal.

Post-almond topping.

Here’s my plate:  veggie burger on homemade bun, grilled corn that I accidentally set on fire (like for real, flaming husks and all) and ramen slaw.  I went back for seconds on the slaw, so good.

It was bf’s cousin’s birthday, so I made dessert too.  I had a hard time deciding but in the end wound up trying the Black Bottom Blondies from My Sweet Vegan.

The look innocent enough from the top…

Bonus chocolate layer!  These were tasty enough, but honestly I didn’t like the texture.  It was kind of gummy and dense.  I’m thinking I may have overbeaten the batter, but the instructions say to beat it!

The next Saturday I was invited to a picnic at Tilden Park to celebrate the marriage of my friends Becca and Steve.  They got married in New York, so this was a nice was for us to get together.  I was completely blanking on a good picnic food to bring, so I asked Becca and she suggested the ranch dressing that she had at my house once.  Easy enough!

The food was good and simple, perfect for a picnic.  First plate:  veggie burger, chips & hummus, veggies & ranch.

Second plate:  fruit salad, pasta salad, tofu and tomatoes and more cucumbers.

Third plate, just because the roasted red peppers and grilled zucchini were done.

Lucky for all of us, Melisser of Sugar Beet Sweets made cupcakes!

Gluten free strawberry shortcake and peanut butter cup.

La la lemon and chocoate chocoalte.  I had a lemon and a pb cup.  Oink oink!  You can’t only have one of Melisser’s cupcakes.

Tilden Park is kind of amazing in an it’s-huge-and-you-will-get-lost kind of way.  There is a great old style carousel, and after lunch a group of us decided to act like children and go on it.  There are all sorts of beautiful, detailed animals.

Deer, zebra and kitty.

Lion, rooster, frog and horse.  There was also a dog and a panda and lord knows what else.  I chose the frog.  Becca didn’t want to ride because of motion sickness, so she tried to snap pictures of us.

My head is on the left above the rooster head.  Good times!

The next day I drove down to Santa Cruz to meet the NorCal PPK crew at Amey’s house for a potluck.  This was a vegan potluck of a magnitude never achieved before, and quite possibly never matched again.  Here’s the table when I got there, and food seemed to flow in continuously afterwards too.

Overflow area:

My contributions were a layered salad bar-style salad with iceberg, red cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, red and green bell peppers, carrots, peas, red onions, seitan pepperoni, bacos, sunflower seeds, croutons and choice of ranch or balsamic vinaigrette.

And Fatfree Vegan’s Southern-Style Banana Pudding.  This was a big hit – really delicious and very easy to make.  I used EcoPlanet vanilla cookies because they were all I could find, and it worked well.

Obviously, I had to try a little of everything.  Plate 1:  empanada, mini bagel with herb spread, pirogi with caramelized onions, crackers with walnut miso dip, bread with yellow pepper dip, a spring roll with garlic scapes and mandarins and other crazy stuff, and grilled tofu on baguette with some sort of delicious spread.

Plate 2: pasta salad, salad with ranch, chips and guacamole,

I was stuffed at this point and put off dessert as long as I could stand, but it all looked so good!  Some more non-dessert arrived in the meantime, so that’s why there’s green on my mostly-dessert plate:  brussels sprouts with pistachios, braised peach and fig salad, swedish cinnamon roll, raspberries, key lime pie with white chocolate mousse, rice krispy treat, apple coffee cake and banana pudding.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Melisser made a ridiculous dessert.  If I remember correctly it was pie crust, cookie dough, cake AND meringue.  Here she is torching the meringue.

Inside shot.

Group shot!

There were SEVEN doggies at the potluck (three of which were Amey’s), and surprisingly enough I liked them all!  All the doggie owners tried to wrangle them in for a picture.

Here’s the ever-popular Strummer, sunning herself on Megan’s lap.

Our gracious host Amey with Snoopy the cutie-pie.

And my favorite pittbull, Fiona.

After pigging out we all sat around and chatted for a while, then Megan, Melisser, her husband Ryan and I went to downtown Santa Cruz to walk around and check out some shops, so at least I worked off a FEW calories.  Check out Amey’s blog post here, she has more detailed pictures of most of the food.

The next weekend we went to Vegas!  BF’s sister is graduating from her master’s program and wanted to get together to celebrate so a group of 13 of us went, mostly bf’s family and his sister’s boyfriend’s family.  Whew.  We scored an amazing rate at Paris, and really enjoyed staying there.  It’s a comfortable hotel, and the kind of place you wouldn’t really have to leave the whole weekend if you didn’t want to.

We got in late afternoon on Friday, settled in, and ate at a cafe in Paris that really isn’t worth writing about, except for the fact that I got a whole bottle of wine for $8 when most of their single glasses are more than that.

HERE is what Vegas means to me.

Ronald’s Donuts, my friends.  The donuts are out of this world good, they have soy milk for coffee, and I will happily make myself sick eating their apple fritters.  Here I am, slightly hungover and unshowered, in apple fritter heaven.

We had plans for dinner but needed to have a late lunch somewhere, because one cannot exist on apple fritters alone.  Enter Le Burger Brasserie in Paris.  I took a chance that this place would have something I could eat, and I won!  Upon inquiring of the waiter if their veggie burger had any dairy or eggs, he cringed and said “Yeah, I think it does…it has mushrooms, grains, vegan cheese…Wait!  Vegan cheese has no dairy!” and checked with the kitchen to be completely sure.

This was a good, good veggie burger.  The patties are made in-house, and are at least an inch thick and very tasty.  It comes with two topping, but I added one and chose portobello, avocado and caramelized onions.  Seriously, this was one of the best veggie burgers I have ever had and I’d recommend Le Burger Brasserie over the meal I had at Burger Bar easily.

The one caveat about this place is that it’s not cheap.  The burgers don’t come with fries, you have to order them separately.  But I would recommend that you do.

Because their fries are really good, despite the blurry image.  They have steak fries, shoestring fries AND waffle fries and you can get a three fry sampler if you want.

Sometimes when the waiter forgets to ask whether you want an orange or lemon slice with your Widmer and they bring you both, you put them both in.  It’s Vegas, you gotta get a little crazy!

Dinner that night was at The Wynn Buffet, where the lighting apparently does horrible things to my pictures.  Like last time I visited, I didn’t get to check that anything was vegan, but when in doubt went the cautious route.  So don’t take my word for it on this stuff…

Plate 1:  salad with vinaigrette, asparagus and pea salad, strawberries, dried fruit, marinated artichoke, pickles and a little piece of bread.

Plate 2:  pita with hummus and baba ganoush, rice pilaf, curried chickpeas.

Plate 3:  Asian slaw, spicy cucumbers with citrus, sushi, seaweed salad, and the most amazing miso udon which I tried to replicate after the last time I had it but didn’t really come close.

I also had a few bites of sorbet for dessert, but it was nothing picture worthy.  For the life of me I can’t remember where or if we had lunch the next day.  Maybe I just ate a bunch of donuts?

For dinner, we had a date with Hoffbrauhaus, a full-on German-style restaurant like in Beer Fest.  You sit at a long table with other parties, there is a band with an accordion on stage, and the waitresses can carry multiple mugs of beer in one hand.  Look at this perfect pour!

The menu includes two vegetarian entrees, but they’re both laden with cheese or cream, so I asked about a few side dishes and ended up getting three.

Yummy pretzel with sweet mustard.

Cucumber salad, which was good but not worth the $7 it costed.

Red cabbage.  The flavor was good, but they somehow managed to make the cabbage HEAVY.  I couldn’t even finish this small bowl.

I would recommend the Hoffbrauhaus if you’re into that sort of thing, but warn that it is not really within walking distance of the strip.  It may look like it is on a map, but please take a cab!

After dinner we went to Cirque du Soleil Mystere at TI.  It was quite a show, but overall I think I liked La Nouba in Orlando better.  Not that Mystere was bad, it just wasn’t better than La Nouba.  It was also really expensive; our discount tickets were more than I really wanted to pay, but I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity.

That was it for us in Vegas, but on the way out of town we stopped off at Ronald’s again.  I had asked around in the Bay Area to see if anyone wanted donuts brought back and had a large response.  So I bought ten half dozens, which didn’t include the donuts I bought for the ride home, or the donuts that the sweet people at Ronald’s GAVE to me!  Here are the donuts I distributed, with my pepper grinder for size reference (and bonus grease spots).

The next weekend, in addition to going to two baseball games, I baked a donation for the San Francisco Worldwide Vegan Bakesale.

These are Chocolate Chip-Raspberry Blondies from Vegan With A Vengeance, but made with Blackberries instead.  They are super-duper good and I can’t believe I waited this long to try them!  I did have a tricky time getting the blackberry filling to work, it kind of seized up and got stringy.  The recipe calls for tapioca powder and I used tapioca flour because I thought they were the same thing.  Anyone know if they’re the same thing?  I added some extra water to the filling and despite being really sticky, it worked out.

Seeing as SF is not a short trip exactly, and I had a hard time getting going that morning, I was a few hours late for the bakesale.  They had already sold out of a lot of items, but had enough to keep going.

We did really well with foot traffic due to our fantasitc location in front of Ike’s.  Ike’s has pretty much the best sandwiches ever (with extensive vegan options), so of course I had to get one.  I really wanted the Paul Reubens special but they had run out of Tofurkey, so I had a “Not So Sloppy” – meatballs and bbq sauce.

So friggin’ good!  And if you order a vegan sandwich they give you a vegan lollipop.

The bakesale was a HUGE success.  Between the two days and locations they raised $3,000 dollars.  Three thousand!  The proceeds were split between Animal Place and East Bay Animal Advocates.  I feel proud to have been a small part of such a great event.  Thanks to Melisser and Laura for organizing!

That brings us to this past weekend, which was the Fourth of July.  We kept it small and just went to a friend’s house to grill, hang out and play board games.  I decided to make a fancy grilled portobello sandwich, and started by marinating some big mushrooms according to this recipe.

During the veggie grilling session (after the grill had been cleaned of any remaining meats) we cooked the portobellos along with pattypan squash and corn.

I served the mushrooms on storebought ciabatta with lettuce, caramelized onions and avocado-horseradish sauce.  Delightful!  The portobellos weren’t the best I’ve ever made, but I think that had more to do with me cooking them over high heat for a few minutes too long than it did with the recipe.

In keeping with my one year tradition of making a red, white and blue dessert, I put together a trifle.  The layers are lemon pound cake from Veganomicon, strawberries, blueberries and coconut whipped cream.  I was going to do a simple silken tofu whipped cream but couldn’t find silken tofu anywhere, so I bought two cans of coconut milk, remembering that I had read somewhere that you could whip it into cream.  I followed the technique of this recipe, using all the cream from the tops of both cans (about 1 1/2 cups), 6 Tbs powdered sugar, 4 Tbs soy milk powder, 1 tsp almond extract, and a pinch of salt.  It did whip up and turned out nicely.

While I was carefully layering the trifle, bf asked me “Why are you arranging it so carefully if you’re just going to cover it up?”.  Well, this is why:

Trifle’s are supposed to look pretty from the side!

And from the top.  It tasted really good too.  There were lots of flavors going on between the vanilla and lemon in the pound cake, the coconut and almond in the cream and the berries, but it came together well and the pound cake had the perfect squishy consistency.

Lastly, here is how Jake likes to spend his time while I’m out galavanting and running around.

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Blueberry Muffins & a Seafood Feast

I had been thinking of making the Very Berry Muffins from Yellow Rose Recipes ever since I got the book, and with a huge bowl of blueberries still in the fridge, last night seemed like a good time for baking.

blueberry muffins

Unfortunately, I didn’t like them all that much.  I was hoping for light, bakery-style muffins, but I couldn’t help subbing half whole wheat pastry flour, and I also used an unrefined sugar I’m not too fond of and was trying to use up, which I think turned them brown and a little gummy in the middle.

blueberry muffins

They’re certainly edible and taste fine, it just wasn’t the muffin I was looking for.  I’ve had good results with other recipes from YRR, so don’t let my muffin results deter you from checking it out…maybe just find a different muffin recipe…

Ever since I saw this post on Vegangelical a couple months back, I’ve been wanting a seafood meal.  Mock seafood, of course.  I started with the groceries.  Celery and corn on the left, broccoli, scallions and dill on the right.  And again, way more fruit than I should eat in the next three days.  There’s so much good fruit this time of year!

groceries

Wheat germ in the little baggie.

groceries

I started with the baked hush puppies from above post.  I didn’t want to buy soy cheese, so I added 2 Tbs nutritional yeast instead.

hush puppies

When I first visualized this meal I wanted to make a crab cake, but last week I came across My Vegan Cookbook and his Faux Fish recipe, and I knew I had to try it.  The store didn’t have Old Bay seasoning, so I found this Old Bay Seasoning Mix recipe which is cool because for some reason I thought you weren’t supposed to eat bay leaves.  Guess that’ll learn me.  Guess that’s why it’s called Old Bay.  Dur.

faux fish

I was really trying to keep the fat and calorie counts down for this meal, so instead of brushing margarine on the fillets I sprayed them with olive oil and patted down the bread crumbs, which worked fine.  I left out the egg substitute because I felt like the tofu and breadcrumbs and everything else would stick it together just fine.  I also added 1/2 tsp of the dulse seasoning I bought for a fishy sea flavor.

I served my feast with boiled mixed veggies, dill and lemon wedges.  I can’t decide which picture I like better, so you get both the horizontal and vertical framing.

faux fish

faux fish

The hush puppies tasted just like I remember, and didn’t lose anything with being baked instead of fried.  I really liked the onion, corn and jalapeno bits in them.  And the fish was good!  I had high hopes for this recipe, and it came through.  You’re not going to pass it as real fish any time soon, but the mix of ingredients and flavors is really interesting and the outside is crispy while the inside stays moist.  The fillets held together well.  I have a hard time getting breading to stick to things, and the method of patting it down on each side just before it bakes worked really well.

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You-Pick Blueberry Crisp, Faux Pho & Laptop Lunches

My friend Jackie asked last week if I wanted to go blueberry picking on Saturday, and of course my answer was yes.  We wanted to pick blueberries a month or two ago but it was too early in the season.  So Saturday around 12:30 we set out to meet her friend Jenny at a local blueberry farm.  Why we went during the hottest part of the day I’m not sure, it just seemed like the time to go.

The blueberry farm turned out to be not so much a farm setup, but a house with a little sign in the front that said “for berries go around to back porch and ring the bell”.  With trepidation we walked toward these people’s backyard, and the lady was on the porch finishing up with another customer.  She then turned her attention to us and said “You guys ready to pick some blueberries?”.  I kind of felt like a kindergartner being psyched up to go on a field trip, but I appreciated her pep.  She gave us some insect repellent and warned about snakes.  Eep!  We set off toward the farthest field where we had been advised there were plentiful ripe berries, and after about a half hour in the hot, hot sun we came back sweaty, tired, non snake-attacked, and each with 1 1/2 – 2 pounds blueberries.  My haul only cost three dollars!

blueberries

I was glad when Jenny suggested lunch at Satchel’s, a trendy little pizza place that I like but never go to because bf doesn’t care for it.  They have a killer salad of lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber, apples and nuts with their secret dressing.  I also ordered an “indy” pizza with mushrooms and spinach.  Their sauce is just a bit spicy.  According to the menu the small salad feeds 2-4 (as a side I assume), but I was famished – I ate my whole salad and half of the 10-inch-or-so pizza, only stopping because I wanted to save the rest of the pizza for dinner.

Soon as I got home I jumped in the shower, a cool shower since I had gotten a little too much sun while berry picking.  When I came out, Jake the monster was being super adorable, so I had to stop and take some pictures.  First he had decided to use my backpack as a bed.  Cats really do love to lay on things.

jake

Then somehow he got himself through the strap.

jake

Such a handsome man.  Then while I was getting dressed he tried to eat the Target bag.

jake

And again managed to get semi-tangled in it.

jake

Yes, those are a couple new melamine plates from Target under the fat boy.  I needed some other supplies from there (gigantic Method laundry detergent, anyone?) and the plates were only like two dollars!  Hi, my name is Erin and I’m addicted to buying cute, cheap plates.

Back to the food.  I didn’t have any specific plans for my blueberries, but we were having a few people over to grill that night so I decided a crisp was in order.  For tried and true Southern style recipes I turn to the Betty Crocker Cookbook, and it really never fails me.  I went with blueberries and peaches for the fruit layer.

blueberry crisp

I patted the crust on and packed it up to bake later at bf’s house.

blueberry crisp

At this point I was a bit wary of the recipe because I thought that most pie/crisp/crumble recipes added stuff to the fruit, like sugar or flour, and this recipe called for the fruit to be naked.  But like I said, I trust Betty Crocker.

BF and co. were grilling mostly meats that night, so I took along the rest of my pizza from lunch.  Tom did bring over some zucchini and squash though, so I sliced it fairly thick and dressed it simply with olive oil, sliced garlic, thyme, salt and pepper.

pizza & squash

The squash was AMAZING.  I assume it was the combo of prep and cooking it in foil directly over the coals that had died down a bit, and I also assume we’ll never achieve this squash nirvana again.  They were soft but not falling apart, and tasted almost buttery.  I was sad there weren’t leftovers.

Meanwhile I baked the crisp, then forgot to take a picture until I had dished out many servings.

blueberry crisp

Verdict:  Everyone loved this.  I liked that all the sugary sweetness resided in the crust, and the fruits were left to speak for themselves.  The blueberries made this amazing syrup.  I even reduced the original amount of sugar called for, so to me it was perfectly sweet.  I ate mine with a dollop of vanilla soy yogurt.  Before…

blueberry crisp

…and after.  (But before I licked the plate.)

blueberry crisp

Fruit Crisp
adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook

4 cups of sliced or chopped fruit (apples, blueberries, peaches, etc)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/3 cup margarine, softened
heaping tsp cinnamon
heaping tsp nutmeg

Heat oven to 375.  Grease an 8×8″ baking dish.

Spread fruit in dish. In medium bowl, stir remaining ingredients until well mixed; sprinkle over fruit and pat down gently.

Bake about 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and fruit is tender. Serve warm with ice cream or soy yogurt. 

Sunday night bf was in the mood for “big soup”.  There is a Vietnamese place called Taste of Saigon II that we go to every once in a while, and pretty much only order the huge bowls of pho.  Two or three meats for bf, vegetarian with oyster mushrooms and tofu for me, and everybody’s happy.  But we’re both trying to save money right now, and I got to thinking that it shouldn’t be too hard to at least make an unauthentic dumbed-down version of pho.  After some help from the internets and a trip to the store this is what we came up with.

pho

I’m not going to write up a recipe because it wasn’t that great, but it definitely hit the spot for what we were craving, made four meals instead of two for about the same price, and saved us from a drive across town.

The general method is to bring the veggie broth, some water, half a sliced onion, 1/2 lb mushrooms, lime juice, a dash of sugar, and salt, soy sauce and five spice powder to a boil, then simmer about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile cook the rice noodles according to the package, and cook any proteins you want to add.

Make a pretty plate of condiments:  bean sprouts, lime wedges, cilantro, sliced jalapeno, scallions, sriracha and hoisin sauce.  Basil probably would’ve been good too.

pho

Put some broth in a huge bowl and add some noodles and optional protein.

pho

Yes, I ate out of a casserole dish  That’s why it’s “big soup”.  Add your garnishes, stir, and eat with chopsticks and a big spoon.

pho

And finally, a wrap up of last week’s lunches.

6-2 lunch

6-2-08  spaghetti, steamed kale, grilled marinated portobello, corn off the cob,
garlic bread, choco-choco chip-walnut cookie

6-3 lunch

6-3-08  wheat toast, green beans, eggplant parmesan, roasted red pepper-lentil-basil sauce, cherries

6-4 lunch

6-4-08  stir-fried eggplant, carrot, kale & basil, sweet & sour peanut sauce,
white rice w/ toasted peanuts, cherries

6-5 lunch

6-5-08  pb&j on wheat, half strawberry jam half peach spread, baby carrots,
two dill pickles, pickled mushrooms, cherries

Friday I was mostly out of fresh food so I grabbed an Amy’s non-dairy pot pie and the rest of the green beans.  I actually microwaved it and ate a hot lunch for a change.

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Wednesday Farmers Market

One of the weekly farmers markets here in Gainesville is held downtown on Wednesday afternoons.  I pretty much always want to go but used to forget 98% of the time, plus parking is hard to come by.  It just so happens that the job I’m working at right now is downtown, located right across the street from the market.  I take the bus to work daily, so today after work I purchased some wares then caught the bus that came 30 minutes later than the one I normally take.  It worked out pretty darned perfectly, so I think this is what I will do most every Wednesday for the next couple months.

I have to say, the farmers market is continually just a little bit disappointing.  There are plenty of booths and plenty to choose from at each one, but it seems like most of the booths have the same selection the other ones do.  It makes sense that each farm located near here would do well growing the same stuff, but I guess I wish someone would offer something different or spectacular.

Anywho, I did get some good stuff.  Red swiss chard, cucumber, red bell pepper, blueberries and patty pan squash.  I’ve never had patty pan squash before, so I guess I can’t really complain about the selection at the market.  Aren’t the patty pans adorable?

farmers market

All for $9, and the blueberries alone were $4.  It’s a lot of blueberries though.  Hooray for the start of blueberry season!  Hopefully soon the u-pick farms will start up.

blueberries

The lady at the squash booth suggested grilling the patty pans when I asked about them, so that is what I did.  I sliced them vertically to keep the shape, and once on the grill pan they reminded me of the underside of a manta ray, how they look like they’re smiling at you.

patty pan squash

manta ray

As the squash were grilling I noticed the distinct scent of cooking pepperoni.  I’m not even kidding.  I did put freshly ground black pepper on them, but not more than I normally would have added.

patty pan squash

I tasted one, and it totally tasted like spicy pepperoni mixed with squash.  I’m so confused.  I’ve consulted the internets and nobody else seems to have experienced this phenomenon.  I haven’t used my grill pan in a long time, so maybe there’s residue from something else, but I wouldn’t think residue could impart such a strong flavor onto squash.  Anybody have a theory?  By the way, check out those grill marks.

I also made wheat orzo with red bell pepper, swiss chard ribbons and lemon butter sauce, and topped it with toasted pine nuts and almond parmesan.  Sounds fancy, huh?

orzo & squash

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