Monday, July 25, 2016

New York Bagel Date

Last winter, my friend Jake went to New York City for work and when he came back home, he brought a bunch of genuine NYC bagels back home with him. Everyone knows that the bagels from NYC are the best bagels in the world. I heard about this impressive and important bagel stash from Jake's wifey, Alana - and she and I quickly hatched a plan for a bagel date. The only thing is - we were both busy, and by the time we checked in again, I received the grim news that Jake had already eaten all the bagels. You snooze, you lose! ha ha. Fair enough. I like Jake, so I forgave him.

Anyway, they went to NY again - this time for actual fun! - and brought home more bagels. Phew! I knew I had to seize the moment (carpe bagelium!). So, we made plans for a fun breakfast bagel date!

the guests of honor

Step One: procure the amazing bagels. All three of us decided on "everything" bagels, and we also all wanted our bagels to be toasted. Meanwhile, Jake made me an excellent cup of hot coffee - much appreciated! I brought along two tubs of Kite Hill Cream Cheese - one tub of their plain/original flavor, and one tub of their chive flavor. If you haven't tried these yet, I highly recommend them. I actually am planning to do a whole blog post about my love for this vegan cream cheese!

bagels bagels bagels! 

Bagel fixin's and supplements. 

Alana prepared an excellent spread of bagel topping possibilities: sliced tomatoes, sprouted microgreens, fresh dill, red onion, pimiento green olives, and capers. So much yum! How would I decide how to proceed with this one special NYC bagel moment??

She also made one of the world's most yummiest salads ever. I was extremely in love with this salad -- little baby greens, hundreds of cucumbers, and a bounty of chopped fresh herbs, and some kind of super delish vinaigrette dressing with capers in it. I just wanted to eat it alllllll.

I brought strawberries because I cannot have a breakfast-ish party without some yummy fruit.

my final choices

It was very hard to decide what to do with my magical bagel experience. In the end, I put plain cream cheese on one half and topped it with tomatoes, red onion, fresh dill, and micro greens. On the other, I put on some unadulterated chive cream cheese. I'm always torn between the emotional reliability of a simple classic, and the emotional thrill of new things. This way I got them both! Plus, salad. I think I had three servings of that special salad.

difficult bagel decisions

Our breakfast bagel date was so lovely and it was great to catch up with them and their son and their not-so-new dog! We had a nice leisurely bagel feast - and I was filled with the special satisfaction that an excellent bagel provides.

After breakfast we went for a great little walk and then looked for lizards in the garden (we saw two!), looked at the fruit trees in their amazing yard, and just had a nice time together. It was pretty great to spend quality time with them.  Believe it or not, those amazing bagels weren't even the best part of our bagel date after all! 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Weekend Yoga Workshop & Friend Time Brunch!

What a fun weekend I had! On Saturday, I taught a 4-hour "mini-retreat" yoga workshop. I really wanted the afternoon to feel special for my students -- like more than just a long class. So I promised I would bring snacks! Snacks make everything special, right? We had a nice long asana practice, a fun snack break, and then a long talk on yoga philosophy. It was a pretty great afternoon and I look forward to teaching more workshops like this again in the future! 

Fancy Yoga Snacks!

These are the special snacks I prepared for the workshoppers. I made two big pitchers of ice water with sliced cucumbers and watermelon cubes ... to makes it feel like fancy spa water. You pretty much can't have a summertime festivity around here without a giant bowl of strawberries, so I didn't want to rock the boat. Ha ha. Plus, fruit is always light and refreshing and rehydrating, which is perfect after a long class.

The two other treats are: Mango Energy Bites from The Minimalist Baker and One Bowl Jumbo Chocolate Chunk Cookies from the Oh She Glows blog. Of course I did the thing that you aren't supposed to do, and made two recipes that I hadn't ever tried before! ha ha!

The Mango Energy Bites are like little raw energy bars in a ball shape - they're super mango-y and also have dates and nuts and coconut and lime zest. The cookies were totally great! They're large and thin and chewy and imperceptibly gluten-free (love that). I loved them a lot and these will definitely be a new GF cookie go-to for me when I want or need to make something special and gluten-free. I made a double-batch of each so that everyone could have at least one cookie and one ball, but I ended up with lots of extras.

it was really hot that day, and the whole room smelled like those amazing chocolate chip cookies. ha ha. They were so aromatic! It was probably hard to concentrate on the yoga practice! 

I wanted both of my treats to be gluten-free, just so everyone in the workshop could feel included, and I also wanted to make one treat that was fruity and one that was chocolatey. Plus I wanted one treat a little on the healthy side, and one on the indulgent side -- you know, for balance! So these were great choices. Everything I brought was a huge hit - and I came home with just three mango balls at the end of the day! Those were some hungry and happy yogis!

sunday morning brunch with friends

If I were going to describe my most perfect day in the whole world, it would be pretty close to last Sunday. Two of my best besties came over on Sunday morning for a long-anticipated brunch party together -- it was just SO great. I made a super delicious crustless quiche (using Somer's Retirement Quiche recipe) - with broccoli, fresh tomatoes, onion, and a couple shredded up slices of cayenne Chao Cheese. Holy moly that's a great recipe. While that was in the oven, we also made some Shiitake Mushroom Bacon -- I love love love the 100% perfect recipe from Vegan Finger Foods. We all agreed that this biz was crazy delicious and bizarrely bacony. More so than any other vegan bacon I've tried or made.

pal time is the best time! 

For it to be a proper brunch-extraveganza, you gotta have sweeties and savories and proteins and fruits and all of that, so we weren't done yet. My pal Sophia made up a wonderful batch of gluten-free Lemon Berry Pancakes (using this waffle recipe from The Minimalist Baker) - I think she said she also added some coconut flour. We also decided to use half fresh blueberries and half fresh blackberries. Holeeee Moleee, these were so good. I had four of them. No regrets! We also had some of my homemade soy yogurt, some of Sophia's homemade plum preserves, and a super lovely and summery fresh fruit bowl from my friend Kendra.

I was pretty much this happy.

We all sat and ate and chatted for such a long and leisurely time, and it was just so fun and relaxing and perfectly Sunday-morning-ish! After we finished eating, we sat outside in the backyard and did the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle together. On my own, the Sunday puzzle is a total pipe-dream, but with two super smart friends, we actually finished it 100% without looking up a single clue! We were very pleased with ourselves! More talking, more leisure-ing, more tea and coffee, more laughter and conversation... our friend date went all the way to the afternoon. And it was perfect and I loved it. 

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Vegan Banana Cream Pie

that's bananas!

Guess what I did this weekend? I made a banana cream pie! It was sooooo good! We were invited over to dinner at some friends' house - and I was in charge of dessert. Such a happy task! I love cooking for other people, and I especially love having a reason to make a special dessert. Our new friend has been vegan for a couple of years, and I asked her if there were any desserts that she particularly missed since going vegan. Her response was "You mean, like cream pies?" Viola!

banana dance! 

With that, I decided to make a banana cream pie. I've only tasted a banana cream pie once before -- when I very first went vegan (16+ years ago!), Mr VE&T told me that he loved banana cream pie and so I made him one. I don't remember anything else about that pie, and I was ready to make some new B.C.P memories!

woooohoooo! getting ready to make a banana cream pie! 

I looked at several recipes online, and decided on Namely Marley's recipe for Vegan Banana Cream Pie. About a month ago, So Delicious sent me a handful of super special VIP coupons for free products. So Delicious has a special place in my heart because I've been enjoying their goodies (especially their soy-based ice cream) since way back in my early vegan days - and since they were called "Soy Delicious." I used two of my coupons to buy some ingredients for my special pie - the culinary coconut milk was a new-to-me product, and that CocoWhip is a product I already love. The culinary coconut milk was great -- it's super thick and I even cut open the package with a pair of scissors to be sure that I got it all out of the little carton! I used the CocoWhip to top the pie (instead of the coconut whipped topping in the recipe) - I put it into a frosting bag with a big, fat piping tip and smooshed it on in cute little dollops. I love the CocoWhip and knew it would be easy and perfect and delicious!

this is the inside of the pie: baked cookie crust, one layer of cream filling, two sliced bananas arranged on top -- then the rest of the cream filling was poured on top, and then the whipped topping, and then the decorative bananas. And then we ate it! 

Of course I was naughty and changed up the recipe a little bit. I baked the cookie crust for 10 minutes at 350F, just to make it a little firmer and toastier. I also omitted the margarine and added an extra banana to the custard filling. Plus, I just used a lot of bananas - the recipe called for 2-3 bananas, but I used a total of 4 bananas. I mean, it's just gotta be full of bananas, right?

the finished creation. 
I was pretty proud of it. The mini chocolate chips were Mr. VE&T's idea!

I never got a fancy shot of the pie after we cut into it, which is just as well, because my filling really didn't firm up. I think it's quite possibly because of all the changes I made! Well, no worries, because it was Extremely Good. We all agreed that this was a super super yummy and delicious banana cream pie and that even if it was a little sloppy, that was okay with all of us. It was so okay, in fact, that I came home with an empty pie dish, ha ha! I think that means it was a hit.

quality banana time

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Good Things I Made and Then Ate

Phew! I've been keeping myself busy with lots of yoga, planning a couple of workshops, watering the garden, doing a fun yoga challenge on Instagram, teaching, eating as many cherries as possible, and even cooking quite a bit. But not really blogging. Oops! So, here's a post with just a few things I've made recently...

Chile Rellenos from The Abundance Diet

So, I just love this Chile Relleno recipe so much - even though, I must admit, the recipe as it is written in the book is a bit flawed. The flavors are PERF, but it's just too liquidy. I had a note in the book to cook it 45 minutes longer than called for... This recipe takes a little while to make all the parts and put it together. I spent some time making it and then I set off to walk the dogs and left Mr. VE&T in charge of taking it out of the oven. Meanwhile, when the buzzer went off, he just turned off the timer and NOT THE OVEN. When I came home 1.5 hours later and realized that it had been in the oven for 1.5 hours longer than called for, I was so grumpy! But then I realized that actually it came out pretty perfect. Ha ha! How many recipes could you say that about? 

But I still love it and will continue to make this casserole because it's just so damned tasty. Still, this recipe has my undying affection. It reminds me of foods I grew up with, and the tastes and textures are unlike anything else I've had or made since becoming vegan 16+ years ago! I chatted with Somer and she has some ideas for how to refine the recipe, so I'll get back to you about that soon! 

dinner with my friend Sandy. Great dinner, crummy picture! ha ha.

My sweet friend Sandy was in town and we got to have her over for dinner, which was so fun and special. I made two new-to-me recipes from The Abundance Diet:  the Cream of Broccoli Soup and the Nicoise Salad. They were both great. I love broccoli, so I super multiplied the broccoli and added 4 times more than the recipe called for -- for maximum brocco-powers! The Nicoise Salad was a great salad that felt light but substantial. With savory tofu cubes that were baked and chewy, steamed green beans and potatoes, it was actually pretty filling too. My pal Sandy is gluten-free, so I busted out some nice GF crackers that I got in a recent Vegan Tuck Box subscription box. They were great!

BroccoGirl has brocco-powers! 

A special salad with quinoa, leeks, asparagus, and peas!

I love to eat veggies when they're in season, and I don't often buy veggies after they go out of season. So, asparagus is on its way out soon and I wanted to make sure I had a couple more special asparagus moments before next year. This Warm Spring Salad from the Oh She Glows website was a lovely weeknight dinner. I left out the strawberries though, because if there's one thing Mr VE&T and I agree on, it's that we don't want fruit in our salad. 

Even after bragging about buying local produce, I must admit that one of my exceptions is frozen peas. I love them so much and they are so easy. Fresh shelling peas are special, but they are also a lot of work and they aren't around for long at our local market. I guess I'm not so fancy after all! Ha ha!

Stuffed Shells with Green Goddess Puree from Vegan With a Vengeance 
on a special fishy fabric that my grandparents brought home from Ghana

Recently one of my friends borrowed a whole bunch of my favorite vegan cookbooks. She is a caterer and needed to provide vegan options for a bunch of meals. I was pretty stoked to be able to help her out! It was actually kind of neat to lend out most of my current favorite cookbooks. Believe me, I still had *plenty* of cookbooks to use. Ha ha. So, I decided to go back to some old favorites. Flipping through Vegan with a Vengeance, I saw the recipe for "Green Goddess Puree." It had been years since I'd made that recipe, and I decided to make some and use it for stuffed shells. In addition to a few pounds of green vegetables (literally), I thought the recipe needed a little spunk (aka salt) - so I added miso, nooch, salt and canned olives. Let me just say that this recipe makes a verifiable TON. Ha ha. I made two whole batches of stuffed shells, and we ate them forever, and we were happy. 

Our orange tree was busy making oranges all winter and they're mostly eaten by now, but I was happy to put the last few to use in this Citrus Beet Salad with Creamy Avocado Lime Dressing . I loved the pairing of the roasted beets with the oranges - the earthy sweet of the beets and the bright sweet of the oranges were really great together - but I thought the Avocado-Lime Dressing was a little too sweet. It had some agave nectar in it and if I make this salad again I would leave it out and let the natural sweetness of the produce shine through.

magic balls of yum

One of my besties recently had her 30th birthday and I wanted to bring something special to her bday party. She's a gluten-freebie, so I needed her super special bday treats to be gluten-free too. First I made the Yo-Los from the Oh She Glows Cookbook. Have you ever made these? They're made with fresh dates, a little bit of peanut butter, and then covered in melted chocolate. That's it! They sound so simple - but somehow it all adds up to something super super special and crazy delicious. I hoped my friend would love them, because she is a huge date fan, and of course she did!

showing up with two special bday treats! 

simple and perfect and delicious

I also made her a special birthday pie! This is the Chocolate Strawberry Pie from Vegan Diner. It has a cookie crust - and it was easy to make gluten-free by buying a package of gluten-free vegan oreo-type cookies. Then there is a layer of glorious chocolate ganache that you press the fresh strawberries into, and more ganache that you drizzle over the top. The whole thing is actually pretty easy to make, but it tastes like a million bucks! This is one of my favorite summertime recipes and I was happy to have an excuse to make it again. I was also happy to see how easily ti was made gluten free.