Sunday, February 28, 2010

New Book

I finished Game and really didn't like it much.  I guess if you really enjoyed basketball, it might appeal to you, but I can't imagine even recommending this book to the basketball players at my school.  They play many games, and specific plays in each game are explained using basketball "lingo."  I love watching basketball, but reading a play-by-play isn't my idea of a good book.  I guess because the main character is an inner-city, disadvantaged black youth who is a very good basketball player, I expected that something dramatic or even tragic might happen, but I was disappointed in this also.  I've read other Walter Dean Myers books and expect more from him.

I'm starting Deadline by Chris Crutcher.  This book has been recommended by one of the teachers at my school, who said she wished she had read it when she was a teenager, and that she recommends it to many of her students.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Home Made Pizza

We made home made individual pizzas last night.  I made everyone (me, husband, son, and son's girlfriend) happy, because they could make it however they wanted, and I could have my veggies.  I used a crust recipe from the Food Network Magazine, which was in their "50 Pizzas" insert.  I didn't even use my bread machine -- I kneaded it by hand!  I used 1/2 whole wheat flour.  We thought the crust had a good texture, but was a little bland in flavor.  Next time, maybe more salt, more sugar, and maybe some Italian seasoning, or oregano or something.  Still haven't come upon the right pizza sauce.  No matter what I try (and I try something different each time), I still haven't got what I want.  I want something thick and "zingy."  Anyone have any suggestions?

Game - by Walter Dean Myers

I finished Evermore.  It was a light, chick romance kind of book.  Very predictable, and one of those books where the main character takes FOREVER to figure out what's going on, when it seems so obvious to the reader.  I think students will like it, it is a quick entertaining read, with a  happy ending, and of course its the first in a series!

Now I'm reading Game by Walter Dean Myers.  I'm sure it will be quick, and  I like to keep up the variety in my reading choices.  I need quick, because my reading pace has slowed dramatically since the Olympics have started.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Another less than tasty dinner . . .

I made Easy Macaroni and Cheeze  from a new web site I found called Fat Free Vegan.  While this was a very creamy gooey pasta dish, if you want that cheese flavor, you won't find it here.  My husband wouldn't eat it.  My son was eating it and my husband said "How can you eat that?"  My son replied, "I'm just really hungry, and I just think of it as a pasta dish -- not mac 'n cheese."  He's right.  I ate it last night, and I ate it for lunch today.  It's not awful -- just not mac 'n cheese.  I did add about 4 Tbsp of margarine that isn't called for in the recipe (although suggested in the narrative.)

I also made Mini Crustless Tofu Quiches from the same site, thinking that I would at least get one good one out of the two recipes.  These were really disappointing.  They just had NO flavor.  Fluffy, eggy texture, and the mushrooms and green peppers were tasty, but it was like eating tasteless foam around them.  I added a lot of salt, and mostly picked out the veggies.  Very disappointing.

I haven't given up!!!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dinner -- almost a success

I made Shiitake and Sweet Pea Risotto from the latest Cooking Light Magazine.  I used vegetable broth, and didn't have fresh thyme, so I used dried.  The dish turned out really creamy -- my husband was surprised it didn't have any type of milk or cream in it.  We were both underwhelmed with the shiitake mushrooms, though.  They were mostly tasteless, and kind of chewy.  I'm unfamiliar with them, so did I have a bad bunch of mushrooms?  Or is that the way it was supposed to be?  Next time, I'll use the baby bellas that I love.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Evermore - A New Novel

I finished The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and I'm very glad it's over.  The book is just not a happy book -- in fact, it's completely tragic -- and it's not like it ever appeared that it might end happily.  I really enjoyed the dog training and the discussion of training for companionship vs. work.  It gave me a new appreciation for my dog --and now I'm always wondering what she's thinking about her life, and what I ask of her.  They are so smart.  Anyway, I'm ready for something different!

And so, I'm going to read Evermore, by Alyson Noel, the first book in The Immortals series.  Looks like a fantasy -- a far cry from dog training and death (I hope.)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tofu Stir Fry/Mac 'n "Cheese"

First of all, on Thursday night I made Macaroni Hates Cheese, a recipe from a new site I discovered called The Post Punk Kitchen.  This recipe uses nutritional yeast - vegan recipes call for this a lot to replace cheese.  It turned out surprisingly good (I was skeptical, because I love cheese).  I really liked the sauce, except I think I would use onion powder the next time instead of chopped onion -- I want my sauce smooth.  Also, I used whole wheat penne pasta and was really disappointed.  I am trying to be good about using whole wheat, but so far I only like the thin or angel hair spaghetti.  Any type of "thicker" pasta, and I feel like there's sand in my pasta.  I need to try some other brands, or get one of the blended pastas that are part whole wheat.  If you have any suggestions for a brand I should try (admittedly, I bought the "store" brand this time,) please let me know.  Anyway, I plan to try this again with GOOD noodles and no chunky onions, and I think it will be very satisfying.

Last night I made Spicy Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry, and this was the best tofu recipe so far.  I drained the tofu really well (pressed it for at least an hour) which I didn't do in other recipes because I hadn't read about the proper way to use tofu.  Makes a big difference.  Also, you toss the hunks of tofu in corn starch and fry them in oil first.  This makes them crispy on the outside.  The sweet and sour sauce was delicious.  I served it over brown rice.  I've seen some other recipes where you marinate the tofu first, so that's what I'm going to try next.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Spicy Black Bean & Corn Tortilla Soup

This was SOOOO good!  Spicy and tangy and yummy.  You should try it -- even if you aren't avoiding meat.  I found it on Recipe Zaar -- I'm liking that site more and more, because you can search by "vegan" and even if it isn't part of the title, it works.  I've really been interested in trying tomatillos, but I couldn't find any in the store, so I put in some green taco sauce, whose main ingredient is tomatillos.  I also couldn't find the frozen mexican vegetables, so I used frozen corn and put in another can of beans.  I did use all of the garnishes, as the recipe recommends, except pico de gallo, which I didn't have (what is that, anyway?)  I thought the soup would be too spicy, with the jalapenos and spicy tomatoes, but it was just right.  I did remove all the seeds from the jalapenos.  That always makes a big difference in the heat.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

21-Days Down

I've completed my first 21 days of a mostly vegan lifestyle.  I feel the main thing is to not stress about being perfect (and I'm not.)  I really love to cook, so this has been a chance for me to become more "experimental" and creative.  I feel challenged to create things and a desire to research food and find the limits of my tolerance for totally weird stuff.   I've never thrown so much food away!  I mean, I have made some really inedible stuff.  But I've made plenty of food that I have enjoyed.  There are several more interesting products I want to try (seitan, nutritional yeast, soy sour cream, to name a few), but I think eventually I will settle into a comfortable level of healthy eating without suffering.  I think my husband's threshold for suffering is lower than mine, so I have to be careful.  I am willing to eat the occasional sprinkle of cheese, and have had fish twice in the 21 days.  I've found a recipe for low fat cheesecake that I have to try -- still dairy, but I LOVE cheesecake!  And, one of my favorite restaurant meals is Lobster Fettuccini at a restaurant called Biaggi's in Champaign.  I fully intend to go back and get some of that.

I bought a cookbook called Vegan Yum-Yum and I am following her blog, as well as some other vegan recipe sites, so that keeps me trying new things.  I signed up for an exercise class, so that will get me started on the other half of my healthier lifestyle.  My son actually ate a veggie burger last night and didn't complain too much -- so we are all doing FINE!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine Dinner

I made a special "splurge" valentine's dinner.  We had Hungry Girl's Te Quiero Tequila Shrimp which I really enjoyed for it's simplicity.  Basically shrimp and fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, and a little chili powder.  Very fresh flavors. I served it over rice, even though the recipe didn't call for it.  We also had steamed sugar snap peas -- they were like candy.  I made bread in my machine -- Oatmeal Applesauce.  It has a little cinnamon in it, but not so much that you feel like you have to eat it for breakfast (which I did this morning!) 

Desert was a special drink, from Sandra Lee called Tall, Dark, and Handsome. It was a really nice chocolaty sweet treat!

Queen's Fool Audiobook

I usually have an audiobook going that I have downloaded onto my iPod.  The problem with this is that the only time I listen is on car trips, which I used to have a lot of, but not so much anymore.  I just finished The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory, which I think I started about 9 months ago.  I took such a long break at one point that I got confused about where I was, so I checked the book out of the library to help me get it sorted out.  I've started to try to remember to listen while I am doing housework, but  you know "The Housework Isn't Getting Done!"

I really liked the book.  It's sort of an epic tale, that I might not have stuck out if it wasn't in audiobook form.  I love historical fiction, and this takes place in the middle 1500s, with all the turmoil of wars between France and England, the shaky position of the monarchy and all the subterfuge about who gets the throne, and of course the burnings at the stake.  Seems you had to change your religious beliefs according to who the current monarch was in order to survive.  The story includes lots of infidelity among the court, which I suppose was true, and also contributed to making the successor to the throne somewhat questionable.

The main character in the story is Hannah, whose mother was burned at the stake in France because they were Jewish.  She and her father escaped to London to begin a new life as "Catholics."  Hannah, because she has the ability to "see" certain future events, ends up in service to Queen Mary.  Hannah eventually is betrothed and married, and the story is really of her life, but with much historical detail.

The reader speaks with an English accent, so every time I stopped listening, I was prone to talking with an accent!  It's part of her "Boleyn" series and I think there's 4 books in the series, this one isn't the first, but it didn't really matter.  I may put some others on my audiobook list.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Yes!  I used real cheddar cheese in this soup.  But I didn't use the half and half or butter!  This recipe came from the Food Network Magazine and here's the changes that I made:

I used 3T of margarine and 3T of EVOO instead of butter.  Instead of the half and half, I used a cup of soft tofu and a cup of soy milk (blended together before I put it in the soup.)  I added a clove of garlic.  I used vegetable stock, not chicken.  I didn't put in the nutmeg, because I hate nutmeg in savory dishes.  I also used about 12 oz. of cheese, instead of the 8 it called for.  I didn't serve it in a bread bowl, but it was yummy.  I think I blended it too much -- I would have preferred it more chunky (like the picture -- which isn't mine.)  My son wasn't home to try it, but I'm hoping he'll try the leftovers, because this is his favorite soup.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I finished Hold Tight, and what a tangled web!  Not like his other books -- not so much suspense but more curiosity about how this is all gonna end. Lots of characters, but I didn't find it difficult to follow.   Loved it.  Recommended, as all of Coben's books are.

I'm back to Edgar . . .

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dinner last night . . .

I made a "chicken" pot pie.  I used purchased pie crusts, and sautéed every vegetable I had -- onions, garlic, celery, carrots, broccoli, yellow pepper, and the rest of a bag of frozen mixed vegetables.  I thickened it with soy milk and cornstarch, and thinned it with some vegetable stock.  I cut up some Morningstar grilled veggie "chicken" patties and put that in.  Poured it in a double crust and baked.  It was very good.

I also made Ina Garten's Chocolate Sorbet.  I thought it was GREAT.  Very chocolaty.  The rest of my family aren't such chocoholics, so they didn't like it as much.  I'm sure my daughter would have liked it -- if she were home to try it.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Stuffed Shells

Last night I made veggie stuffed shells.  They were very good.  The tofu was just like ricotta cheese.  I didn't put the pine nuts on top.  Next time I will put more marinara sauce on them.  I'm looking forward to having the leftovers for lunch.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Egg Rolls

I made egg rolls for dinner.  I substituted Morningstar beefy crumbles instead of the meat.  They were very good.  I don't fry things often -- don't like to mess with all that oil and mess, so I wouldn't make this very often, but it was fun for a special occasion (husband got home from a business trip.)

I had three egg roll skins left, so I filled them with bananas, a few chocolate chips, and a spoonful of peanut butter and fried them up.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.  They were good too.

Book Interrupted

I took a break from Edgar Sawtelle.  I'm really enjoying the book, but its "literary" and doesn't have much action.  I felt myself getting antsy for the next book, so I decided to go ahead and read something else -- something quick.  So, to meet the "action" criteria, I'm reading Harlan Coben's Hold Tight.  I've never been disappointed in a Coben book -- if you haven't read him, you should give it a try.  I think part of the reason I get impatient with "adult" books is that the majority of my reading falls into the young adult category.  Coben is an adult writer but has great appeal for young adults.  At least one of his books has been on the "Abe Lincoln" list -- the high school book award for Illinois students. (See my Animoto slide show at the bottom of this page to see this year's nominees.)

I've already read 150 pages, and of course am enthralled, so it won't be long until I'm back to Edgar.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Soup and BROWNIES!!

I made Tuscan Chickpea Soup last night which I thought was really good.  Even my son and his girlfriend ate some.  I made it just like the recipe, except used vegetable stock (which I made) instead of the water.  I'm not crazy about rosemary, so I went very light on that.  I would change one thing, though.  I didn't like the whole chickpeas, but I did like the bits of tomato, so next time I would blend the whole thing (using my immersion blender, of course!) and add the tomatoes last -- so it would be a smooth, creamy, bean soup with bits of tomato.  I like the "petite diced" ones, so they are just little bits.

I served it with my home made whole wheat French bread, which has been a big hit.  My son says it reminds him of the dark wheat bread that they serve at 54th Street Bar and Grill.  It's not dark like that, but kind of heavy and rich.

But, best of all, I made Vegan Brownies, that are really good and fudgy.  I'm eating one right now for lunch. The only change is that I used Splenda Blend instead of sugar and I didn't put in the nuts.  So, mine aren't totally vegan because I used 60% cocoa dark chocolate chips.  There's some dairy in those, but not that much and I thought it was necessary!