Sunday, June 30, 2013

Horchata Cupcakes Again(!!!) and Israeli Couscous

Friday morning started off with an excellent mixed berry and banana smoothie.  Look how purple!  They say that humans have a natural aversion to purple food since so many purple things in the wild are actually poisonous, but I always feel like purple food is really healthy!  (Eggplant, blueberries, blackberries!)  Clearly purple's not all bad. 
Mid-morning I snacked on some almonds to stave off hunger.

For lunch I enjoyed leftover gazpacho with French bread and a magazine out on the balcony.  Unfortunately, prior to this lovely picture I spent quite a while cleaning gazpacho off the counter, stovetop, and kitchen floor after I spilled about half of the leftover soup everywhere.  And gazpacho isn't really a particularly appetizing food, so it was particularly unpleasant. 
After lunch I got to work mixing up horchata so that I could make horchata cupcakes again for a cupcake party a friend was planning for Saturday afternoon.  Step 1 for the cupcakes is to make the horchata itself.  I decided to cheat my way through it this time by starting with vanilla rice milk and just adding sugar and cinnamon. 
Once I was done, of course, I had to sample my horchata, and it tasted great - couldn't even tell I cheated on it! 
And once the horchata was done I got to work on the cupcakes, which also came out great!  The idea of the party was that everyone would make at least 20 cupcakes to share and the "winner" was going to get a bottle of wine.  I knew I wouldn't be able to try anyone else's cupcakes, but it sounded like a fun idea. 

So of course about fifteen minutes after I pulled these cupcakes out of the oven my friend cancels the party because she suddenly has to work.  Boo! :(  Looks like my boyfriend is bringing cupcakes to share at work Monday ...

For dinner I decided to invent something that would use this Israeli couscous I spotted at Trader Joe's the other day.  It loked basically like giant couscous, so I thought pretty much anything that would taste good with couscous would be fine.  I decided to mix it together with cooked mushrooms and red peppers, and lightly sauteed spinach. 
It was incredibly delicious!  My boyfriend said he was a little put off by the texture (he equated it to bubble tea), but I think it's something that grows on you.  And it's definitely not as mushy as tapioca ...  I'll definitely be trying this stuff again.  Maybe the same recipe ... or maybe something new.  We'll see!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Healthy Lunch and Failing at Softball

For Thursday morning's smoothie I tried out something new ... Silk dark chocolate almond milk!  I still had chocolate soy milk to use up so I made my chocolate banana shake with half soy milk and half of the new stuff.  It was delicious and definitely more chocolatey than normal. 
For lunch I decided to follow my own advice for once and packed a super healthy, nutitious lunch - a giant salad with French bread on the side.  Fortunately, I'd taken the time to chop up the extra cucumber and red pepper while I was making gazpacho and tossed the chopped veggies in a tupperware so that they would be ready to go into a salad quickly. 
Into the salad went: greens, red pepper, cucumber, artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes, slivered almonds, and a dressing made with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, almonds (blended up), salt, and pepper.  Unfortunately, I'm really not a big fan of vinegar flavor.  It's the main reason I tend to shy away from salads - because I don't like the way most dressings taste.  In fact, I couldn't manage to finish this sald because of the flavor.  Though they're a lot less healthy, I used to prefer creamy dressings that mask that sour/bitter vinegar taste.  I could try to make a vegan version of one of those for the future ...  Or I could come up with some other sauce alternatives for my salads, like salsa or pesto.  To be continued on the salad-making adventures ...

Mid-afternoon I had a long meeting scheduled, so I snacked on the last cornmeal coconut biscuit to keep my stomach from grumbling during the meeting. For some reason, when my stomach grumbles it's the loudest thing ever. Maybe I have a lot more hollow space inside me for the sound to reverberate. It's crazy loud!
Right before I left work I had another quick snack - some dried mixed berries.  I planned to join my boyfriend's work softball team to help them out because they expected to be short a girl for the game (the team is required to have at least three girls, and every time a girl should come up and doesn't the team gets an automatic out). 
Unfortunately, I wasn't really any help to them because I've never played softball before, and the two times I came up to bat I was out at first and then struck out :(  Whomp whomp.  So it would have been just the same for them if I hadn't been there at all ...
After the game my boyfriend and I headed out to dinner at Baja Fresh.  (If you hadn't noticed yet, when we do fast food, it's almost always Mexican - Chipotle, Qdoba, Baja Fresh ...)
I ordered my usual Baja Fresh mish-mash: rice and beans plate with no cheese and a side of guacamole ... then onto the salsa bar for tons of hot salsa, pico de gallo, and chopped jalapenos.  Usually all this food (plus the free chips they give you) is enough for two meals, but I ate almost the whole thing in one sitting!  There wasn't even enough left to bother to bring it home.  That's probably the sign of a good meal! 

Clip from "The Doctors" on Veganism

Just wanted to share this clip from The Doctors from May of this year that was posted on the Huffington Post.  The video discusses common misconceptions people have about veganism and checks in with a couple of people they got to do a 30-day vegan challenge.  It's only three minutes long, so they certainly don't go into much detail, but they did talk about how easy it is to get protein because it's in everything we eat (even broccoli!). 
They went into pitfalls of a vegan diet as well, including the importance of not just resorting to junk food (bad Lindsay!) and ensuring you get the nutrients you need - especially if you're pregnant.  They didn't discuss the nutrients specifically, but vegans need to be sure they're getting enough B12, Calcium, and Iron, just to name a few. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Snack Attack and Gazpacho for Dinner

In an attempt to change up my normal morning protein shake shot, I took this picture while walking out the door of my building and ended up getting a really interesting light effect ...  And I also got a disconcerting reminder of how short my thumbs are :( 

So, I basically went snack crazy yesterday and ended up eating almost everything I have stashed in my cupboard at work.  Mid-morning I snacked on some dried mixed berries. 

Then a little later I had carrots (not stashed at work, I brought those from home). 

After that it was oatmeal with a big scoop of peanut butter (which I may or may not have made again right after I finished the first serving ...). 

And then I had a big bowl of kettle corn.  And of course after I had that the bag was almost empty so I had to go ahead and finish it off completely ...

NOT GOOD!  I need to get my snacking under control!!!  And I think a big part of that is not eating enough real food during the day.  And certainly none of that was nutritious (well, maybe the carrots). 

Plan for the future to prevent snack attacks:

1. Pack a lunch.  This seems so simple, but it's so important.  I didn't pack a lunch yesterday, so naturally I went crazy eating everything I could find.
2.  Stock nutritious, real food options at work.  Sometimes I just won't be able to pack a lunch, or I will pack a lunch and still be hungry, so I need to have go-to options that actually satisfy so I can stop snacking after just one snack!
3.  Don't even let myself buy the non-healthy snacks.  If it's not there, I can't eat it. 

To make up for my crazy snack attack I decided to make vegan gazpacho for dinner.  It's super easy and definitely healthy - just blend up a bunch of veggies and eat!  I put a healthy dose of cayenne pepper in this gazpacho, which made it really spicy and exciting.  With toasted French bread on the side, this was an easy, delicious summer dinner.  I'll definitely make this one again.

But of course I still needed a little something sweet after dinner, so I used leftover flourless chocolate cake batter to make some mini cakes in a cupcake pan.  The batter didn't translate so well, and the cakes ended up losing their integrity when you tried to pick them up.  But they still tasted good! 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Leftovers Lunch and Late-Night Take Out for Dinner

Tuesday morning started off bright and early with a strawberry banana protein shake.  I feel like I'm taking almost the exact same picture of these things every morning.  Maybe soon I'll stop altogether and only do breakfast pictures when I actually eat something interesting. 
Mid-morning my stomach started to rumble, so I snacked on a couple of sweet cornmeal coconut biscuits.  They are so tasty - just a hint of sweetness! 
For lunch I had my boyfriend's leftover dinner from Monday night (packed up when he decided he couldn't stomach Gardein beefless tips) and the last few leftover rosemary potatoes from The Laughing Pint.  It felt like a really hearty lunch - "meat" and potatoes, after all.  And I really don't mind the taste of the Garden beefless tips.  Maybe I'll still get them from time to time just for me. 
Mid-afternoon I snacked on some kettle corn.  I guess I was in a sweet mood, with sweet biscuits and sweet popcorn as my snacks ...

After work I went to cheer on my boyfriend and his coworkers as they played softball (apparently against their arch rivals).  Unfortunately, the team lost.  But I did get to enjoy a cold white wine as I sat in 95 degree heat cheering! 
Staying out late for the game meant we didn't get home until after 9 pm and needless to say we didn't feel like cooking.  Luckily we live only a couple blocks from Chipotle, so while my boyfriend cleaned up from the game I grabbed dinner to go.  I ordered myself a burrito bowl with brown rice, black beans, fajita veggies, corn salsa, hot salsa, lettuce, and guacamole.  So much food!  (And of course I ate it all!) 

Sweet Cornmeal-Coconut Butter Drop Biscuits and Chocolate Tofu Dessert

Monday morning I tweaked my usual morning protein shake by using coconut water leftover after making coconut whipped cream to top the chocolate cakes for Saturday night's dessert.  I mixed the coconut water with banana, frozen mango, vanilla protein powder, flax seed, and a little vanilla soy milk to fill the cup.  It looks like a total mess pre-blending, but once it was made it tasted delicious!
Mid-morning I decided to try another recipe out of Vegan Soul Kitchen - Sweet Cornmeal-Coconut Butter Drop Biscuits.  Sometimes its hard for me to pick a recipe out of a cookbook when there's no picture to entice me, but these biscuits sounded so delicious I couldn't resist! 
And the recipe didn't disappoint.  The preparation was really simple and the ingredient list wasn't too difficult to obtain.  Coconut butter required a bit of hunting before I found it at Whole Foods, and I definitely could have done without the sticker shock.  I'll just have to find lots of excuses to use coconut butter in the future.  Maybe more biscuits?
One thing I need to keep in mind next time I make these is to put the rack closer to the top of the oven rather than the middle - the bottoms of the biscuits got closer to dark brown than I would have preferred. 
Of course once the biscuits were made I had to sample a couple with a delicious lunch of leftovers.  I reheated leftover fajita fixings from Arcos along with roasted rosemary potatoes from The Laughing Pint.  It was a ton of food and all of it delicious! 
Once I finished up with work I headed downstairs to the building's gym to read Solaris on the exercise bike and then do so many squats my legs felt like jello afterwards.  My book club meeting for Solaris is Thursday, and even though it's a short book I've found myself slow to read it.  I will really have to push to finish it in time. 
By the time I finished at the gym my boyfriend was home from work so after a quick shower I got right to work on dinner.  We have had some Gardein beefless tips in the freezer for a while now, so despite my boyfriend's strong objections I decided to cook some up for dinner.  He's pretty strongly against fake meats unless they are in veggie burger, fake deli meat, or possibly breaded fake chicken form. 
Hoping I could make them to his liking regardless, I sauteed the beefless tips in oil, then added chopped mushrooms and leaks to the pan.  And of course I served a few biscuits on the side.  Unfortunately, my lovely preparation was not enough for him and after a few bites he gave up and only ate the biscuits.  Whomp whomp.
A while later he made himself a sandwich using Asmar's tuna for dinner.  I guess I won't be buying anymore Gardein beefless tips ...  I thought they tasted fine, but I definitely wouldn't consider them stellar enough to make them for myself while my boyfriend has to eat something else. 
For dessert I served myself some chocolate tofu mousse leftover from making Saturday's chocolate cakes.  It seems so odd, given what it is (chocolate chips, melted Earth Balance, and tofu blended together) but tastes so good.  The only thing is that after storing in the fridge it needs to come back to room temperature to get that mousse-y texture.  It tastes like  a delicious chocolate indulgence but is actually pretty healthy because of the tofu.  I think I've stumbled on something really amazing here! 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Restaurant Review Times Two

Sunday we spent all day out so we ended up dining out for both brunch and dinner. 
For brunch we headed to Arcos Mexican Restaurant to use a Living Social voucher I purchased a few months back that would be expiring in early July.  Before I purchased the voucher I scoped out the website to make sure I would have some options and was really excited to see they have an entire vegetarian section on their menu.  Of course something's wrong with their website so you can't actually see the vegetarian menu online, but I thought just having it was a good sign. 
When we walked inside the place felt like it was about 120 degrees, but fortunately they have a pretty little (covered) back patio where we could sit.  Normally I would have preferred indoor seating with the weather (it was about 85 degrees), but not when it's hotter inside than out! 
Unfortunately the service was not so stellar.  I'm not sure why everything was so slow, because there was no one inside the restaurant at all, and only about 10 tables seated outside (and 3-4 servers - it looked like the host was helping out).  It had actually gotten to the point that everyone was clapping whenever a table finally got their food.  It was pretty ridiculous. 
It also took us a while to get our orders worked out because my voucher was for two entrees and two drinks, but when we were first seated our server said we could only order off a special menu he gave us - which of course didn't have a single vegetarian offering.   After a while of us trying to figure out what we could take off the items to make them vegetarian or vegan I finally asked if we could order off the regular menu's vegetarian section and he said that was fine - not sure why it wasn't presented as an option in the first place ...
I ordered vegetarian fajitas, which came with a ton of stir fried veggies, lettuce and pico, rice, and beans - unfortunately my beans were topped with cheese, so I just scraped some off the sides and left the rest to my boyfriend. 
And of course I ordered a margarita to drink!  But no blender for frozen margaritas :( 
All-in-all, we both gave this place a giant thumbs down.  The food wasn't terrible, but it certainly wasn't anything to seek out again.  And the service was just beyond horrible.  The wait staff didn't give the impression that they were all brand new at their jobs, but they were running around like it was super busy when it just wasn't.  When my boyfriend's order came he realized after the server left that he didn't have his guacamole.  When a server surfaced a few minutes later and he asked about it the server said he would grab some and then never showed up.  We actually both stopped eating hoping the guacamole would appear, but gave up after about ten minutes and just kept going.  Needless to say, no guacamole came and neither did an apology about it. 

Having been a waitress one summer in college, I'm usually really sympathetic about poor service, but this was just beyond the worst I've ever had.  No one was rude, so we still tipped normally, but there's no way we'll ever be heading to Arcos again. 
Later in the day we were doing more apartment hunting outside of DC, so we stopped into Matchbox Vintage Pizza Bistro in Rockville for dinner.  We've driven past this place a few times and always joked that they served you old pizza (what else does "vintage" mean?).  But we'd also heard it was good, so we finally decided to give it a shot. 
My boyfriend ordered a salad to start (and I helped by having a few bites) and then we ordered a large "fire & smoke" pizza to split - with no cheese on my half. 
It was delicious!  I definitely don't agree with their "very spicy" menu warning, but the roasted red peppers and chipotle tomato sauce gave the pizza tons of flavor.  Plus the basil on top made the pizza feel really fresh and summery - and almost healthy!  It was such a good choice.  We polished off the whole thing! 
So our day of restaurant eating ended up with one winner and one big-time loser.  I guess that leaves us pretty much even in the end ...
When we got home I was craving something sweet, so I decided to make a milkshake with some So Delicious Chocolate ice cream made with coconut milk.  This was my first time trying vegan ice cream (though I've been reading through online reviews carefully) and I was really pleased with it.  I really couldn't taste or feel a difference (some reviews talk about the "mouth feel" of vegan ice creams being off).  You could taste the coconut, but I think that was all the better.  My boyfriend described it as tasting like an Almond Joy - which is just fine with both of us!
I mixed a couple of big scoops of ice cream with a banana and some chocolate soy milk to make my milk shake.  It ended up tasting quite a lot like my regular chocolate banana protein shakes (maybe I should have left out the banana?) but that's not a bad thing.  Next time maybe I'll try making a big sundae instead to really get the best out of the ice cream experience! 

Making Vegan Dinner for My Boyfriend's Parents

Saturday morning I slept in pretty late - I guess I stayed up too late enjoying the longest day of the year the night before.  When I finally got up I got right to work preparing for dinner at my boyfriend's parents' house by mixing up some cashew cream sauce for the best pasta ever.  I actually had to look back at my original blog post to make sure I didn't leave anything out of the sauce.  It just proves blogging for posterity actually has it's uses! 
Once the sauce was mixed up I headed out to get groceries and go for a run at Druid Hill Park.  It looked like a beautiful day before I started running, but it turns out running around a reservoir with very little shade at noon-ish in 80 degree weather is not so fun.  The run was only a couple of miles, but I ended up stopping to walk a few times along the way. 
Because running has always been my most difficult form of exercise, I tend to beat myself up when a run goes poorly, so I just try to keep in mind that one bad run isn't the end of the world, and the most important thing is that I got out there and got my butt moving.  Hey, even a walk is better than nothing! 
When I got home I made myself a tasty strawberry banana protein shake to cool off. 
Because I was getting such a late start, it seemed silly to make a real lunch, so I snacked on some pistachios to tide me over until dinner. 
The plan for dinner was for my boyfriend and I to bring all the supplies over to make a delicious vegan feast for his parents at their house.  The menu we decided on was:
Main Course: Best Pasta Ever
Dessert: Flourless Chocolate Cake Topped with Coconut Cream
Luckily I'd already made the cake Friday afternoon, so all we had to do was make the pasta and kale - easy peasy!
My boyfriend's parents made a delicious appetizer to snack on before dinner - eggplant caponata crostini, which they found care of Martha Stewart's website.  Thanks, Martha!  It was so good I could have just eaten those alone for dinner ... and I nearly did!  I think I had six or seven crostini all to myself. 
But we did eventually get around to making the real dinner.  It's a little odd to cook in someone else's kitchen - you're always searching for the right pans and other tools - but things went pretty smoothly and both his parents said they loved the whole dinner. 
They were amazed you could get the pasta sauce by making cashews, and everyone (my boyfriend included, because I hadn't warned him) was amazed there was tofu in the chocolate cake.  The next day my boyfriend's mother called to thank us again and say that we'd really opened her eyes to vegan cooking.  Yay!  I can't wait to make vegan dinner again for them soon. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dentist Visit and Enjoying the Longest Day of the Year

Friday morning I woke up pretty nervous.  I had a dentist appointment first thing in the morning and I was really worried I would have a cavity (or two).  Sometimes I have pain in my teeth, and I think I'm somewhat predisposed to cavities because I've had them before even though I brush twice a day, floss, and use the anti-cavity mouth wash.  And getting fillings is the worst, so I really hoped I wouldn't have any. 
Before my dentist visit I knew I had to eat something, but I knew my usual protein shake would make my stomach all gurgly and just make me have to use the bathroom ten minutes into the appointment.  Instead, I opted for a small piece of toast topped with white chocolate wonderful peanut butter.  And then of course I promptly brushed my teeth as well as I could to try to impress the dentist. 
Fortuntely my dentist is just a few blocks from my apartment, so I walked over and arrived early to the 9:15 appointment.  They got me in right away and then out again and on my way.  And with no cavities!  Yay!  They said the pain is just sensitive teeth, so I don't have to worry.  Phew!  Huge load off my mind. 
After picking up my boyfriend's pants from the tailor on my way home I still got back to the apartment by 10:30.  Since I'd taken half the day off work, I still had time to kill before I had to do anything serious, so I enjoyed the weather out on the balcony with a chocolate banana smoothie and a magazine. 
A little while later I reheated some Italian tomato lentils for lunch.  They were tasty and filling - just as good as leftovers as they were when they were first cooked. 
A little while later I made vegan flourless chocolate cakes following this recipe, which I planned to take over to my boyfriend's parents' house for dessert after dinner on Saturday.  I wanted to try the recipe early in case it was a disaster and I needed to come up with another dessert. 
The first step in the recipe was to melt chocolate chips with vegan margarine and then blend with a block of tofu.  After just this step you come out with this lovely, mousse-looking, fluffy deliciousness.  I could have stopped there and announced we were having chocolate mousse for dessert! 
But of course I didn't stop there (maybe I should have), and I kept going to make the cakes.  The recipe was designed to make one big cake, so maybe I messed things up for myself by trying to cut it in half and make smaller cakes ... but things didn't go so well.  The cakes rose a lot and then sunk while baking, making odd wells in the center.  But they still tasted quite good, so I decided to stick with them for Saturday's dessert. 
For dinner my boyfriend and I decided to take advantage of the longest day of the year by eating dinner outside at a restaurant we really like called The Laughing Pint.  We came across this place once after kayaking one summer, and then lost it for a while.  But luckily we found it again, because the food is unique and delicious, and they also have all sorts of fun bar games like table shuffle board, which we played briefly before sitting down to eat. 
I started with a red sangria while perusing the menu.  It wasn't the best, but it was cool and refreshing - it felt like summer! 
I ordered a cashew burger with bourbon pear sauce and rosemary roasted potatoes.  The burger also came with a little chick pea side salad, which was really delicious.  It was made with red onion, carrot, cilantro, and red pepper - definitely going to try to recreate this at home!
Unfortunately, I think the burger bun probably involved some sort of butter in its creation ... maybe even eggs.  I didn't think to ask what kind of bun it was, and really I don't know what my option would have been if I'd found out it wasn't vegan.  I don't know for sure what was in it, but I just have my suspicions ...  But of course once it arrived there was no point in quibbling about it. 
After dinner we walked along the Inner Harbor for a bit, enjoying the late-night light and the beautiful weather.  It was the perfect evening! 
Did you have a chance to enjoy the longest day of the year?  What is your favorite way to spend it?