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.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Weekend of Non-Stop Celebrations!

Last weekend was a 4-day fiesta of non-stop merriment, special occasions, eating, and celebrating! I was super busy, and I'm still trying to catch up with all my emails, but I have no complaints. Celebrations are fun! 

The following events were observed:
My birthday (43! woot!) ~ Two of my besties received their PhDs (!!) ~ My niece graduated junior high, my nephew graduated high school, and my other nephew had an end-of-the-school year event at his school ~ Parties were held for all the various graduates ~ my mom & my two aunts and I walked/ran in an annual 5-mile race that we do every year in memory of my grandma (their mom)

Birthday Breakfast!

The Best Way To Start My New Year: fancy breakfast!

First things first, it was my birthday. I like birthdays and I like doing as many of my favorite things on my bday as possible. This year I started off with a good workout with my trainer, and then came home and prepared a Super Special Birthday Breakfast for Mr. VE&T and myself. I love love love special breakfasts. I made a fancy summertime fruit plate because summertime fruits are the best, Puffy Pillow Pancakes (from Isa Does It) - with added blueberries, Garlic Tofu Cubes (from Oh She Glows), and of course, a big cup of hot coffee. I love blueberry pancakes, but Mr VE&T prefers plain ones... so usually I just do that. But on my birthday I call the shots, including the fruity pancake shots. They were so delicious and perfect. I like the way some of the blueberries get all gooey and cooked. I enjoyed my pancakes with my homemade vegan butter (recipe from The Homemade Vegan Pantry) and real maple syrup. Perfect! 

eating pancakes for my birthday breakfast makes me super super super happy! 

Birthday Dinner!

many years ago, this beautiful lasagna dish was a birthday gift for me from Mr. VE&T

With so many family gatherings and my usual weekday teaching schedule, I wasn't even sure if I would try to have a party for my bday. I mean, no one really needed another family gathering last weekend! ha ha. But, as the day grew closer, I was in the mood, so I decided to host my own birthday party! On the day before my birthday, I made one of my all-time favorite treats: Lasagna! In fact, you can find my recipe here on my blog on an old post called "Birthday Lasagna." Lasagna is so special and delicious, and it's also a good bit of work, so it's definitely a special occasion kind of a treat.

simple and delicious family dinner!

We had a fun and intimate family dinner - kept it nice and simple! In addition to the lasagna, I made a big bowl of steamed Romano Beans, because I am seriously into Romano Beans right now. My aunt Laura brought a huge and beautiful salad full of veggies and my salad-loving family ate so much that she had to make a second bowl of it. Woot! 

it was so funny to draw this, because I used to draw Garfield over and over again when I was a little girl! 

Even with 8 people, there was a fair amount of lasagna left over! I guess everyone was busy eating all that salad. Anyway, I was stoked, because the best thing about birthday lasagna is leftover birthday lasagna that you can eat for lunch the next day, and again the day after that. It's the gift you make for yourself that keeps on giving! 

Happy Birthday To Me!
a long time ago, this daisy platter was also a bday gift for me from Mr VE&T

The afternoon of my birthday was spent in the kitchen - baking cakes!  I made a birthday cake for myself, and a graduation cake for my PhD pal. That's a pretty okay way to spend my afternoon, since I enjoy baking. For my birthday cake, I made a really simple one-layer carrot cake. I love carrot cake so much! I used the recipe from Vegan With a Vengeance, but that recipe is called "Tropical Carrot Cake," or something like that. I used orange juice & orange zest instead of pineapple juice, replaced the macademia nuts with walnuts and pecans, and omitted the ginger altogether. I think I also reduced the sugar a little bit. 

For frosting, I made the Cream Cheese Frosting recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I used Kite Hill Almond-based Cream Cheese. The frosting was a little sweeter than I wanted it to be, so I added a teaspoon or two of lime juice, and then it was perfectly tart -- just the way cream cheese frosting should be. When I was putting the frosting on, I wasn't sure what to write. Just writing "Happy Birthday" seemed kinda sad and writing nothing seemed sad too... but "Happy Birthday to me" was perfect! I was super happy with how yummy this cake was, and there was even some leftover. I put it in the freezer, and all week I've been cutting off little pieces. It turns out carrot cake is also delicious straight out of the freezer. 


I love having ice cream with cake, and I've been wanting to try this Snickerdoodle Cashew Milk Ice Cream from So Delicious. It was such a great combo with the carrot cake! This ice cream has a nice cinnamon flavor (but not in an over-powering way) and is full of little bits of snickerdoodle cookie dough. True confession: this is a photograph of an empty carton because that ice cream didn't last long at all. Ha ha! 

PhD Graduation Party!

a super special cake for a super special PhD pal!

Here is the other cake I made on my birthday! Like I said, two of my very beloved pals got PhDs last weekend, and after the ceremony they held a big joint celebration party along with one other friend. To make a long story short, there were already going to be two big cakes at this party, but neither of those cakes was going to be vegan. Someone needed to make sure that my friend Sophia could celebrate her amazing accomplishment with a vegan cake of her own!! That person was me!

I made the Chocolate Cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World - but intensified it with 2 extra tablespoons of cocoa powder and an extra teaspoon of chocolate extract. I used my small 5" cake pans, and made a super-cute mini layer cake. In between the two layers of cake was a raspberry buttercream made with vegan butter, powdered sugar, liquid from thawed frozen raspberries (seeds removed through a sieve) and a bunch of dehydrated raspberries ground into a powder. Whoa! It was bright red and super raspberry-ish! I used the Ganache recipe from VCTOTW and did two layers. The first layer covered up any lumps or irregularities, and I waited until that had cooled and set before smoothing on the second layer.

My berry decorations were inspired by a super beautiful and awesome and over-the-top Instagram feed @therexsa - a vegan cake baker from the East Bay. Her creations are pretty amazeballs. Sophia and I love to go to the farmers' market together and we always enjoy sampling the different fruits and berries - so this seemed like an especially appropriate way to decorate her cake. I used blackberries, red raspberries, golden raspberries, strawberries (all from the market) and even threw on a few Little Secrets vegan m&m's in their dark chocolate raspberry flavor.

baking with love!

It was okay to make my own bday cake, but it was *super fun* to make this cake for Sophia. It just feels so good to make something special for someone you love. It's lovely to think of them the whole time you're making it. Best of all, I even got to share it with her at her party, and it was crazy yummy!

Junior High & High School Graduation Party!

Open-faced BLTs with Shiitake Bacon

Next up in my weekend of festivities was a party honoring my niece and nephew and their graduations. My brother and his fiance threw a huge party and had lots of "non-vegan" options, if you know what I mean. They sometimes tease me about being vegan, but actually, they've come a long way. I promised that I would help out by bringing a bunch of food that was vegan "but wouldn't gross people out." ha ha.

Whenever I'm faced with cooking up a bunch of foods for a party, I always turn to my trusty copy of Vegan Finger Foods. VFF isn't necessarily a book for weeknight dinners, but it is such a perfect book for party foods. I really love it.

First up, I made a version of their Open-Faced BLT's. Let me just say that the shiitake mushroom bacon from this book is - to date - the best vegan bacon I have ever made or tasted. It was SO GOOD. That is very important news! The recipe called for a base layer of guacamole, but I simplified and just used avocado slices. These little creations were extremely delicious. Mr. VE&T and I considered skipping the party and staying home to eat all of these ourselves. I might have to convert this into a weeknight dinner sometime soon! 

finger foods are super fun! 

Mean Bean Taco Cups

Aren't these cute and cool? I've had my eye on this recipe, but I hadn't ever made it before. The whole thing was actually very quick and easy to make. The little taco shells baked up easily in the oven while I made the filling. The ingredients were all simple and straightforward, but the result was a delicious, light, perfectly spicy Mexi-inspired bean salad. These got great reviews from other folks too. I assembled them about an hour before I got to the party... and I was a little concerned that the taco shells might get soggy - but they never did! Woot! These are definitely a new party favorite for me.

one of my favorites!

This recipe for Tiny Tomato Pies is one of my very favorites and I think this is the 4th or 5th time I've brought these to a party. The crusts are super easy press-in crusts, and the filling is a delicious spinach-basil-tofu mixture. They're made in a mini-muffin pan and the recipe makes 24 little pies, which is a good quantity for a party! Plus, they're just so cute and a perfect nibble size - maybe 3-4 bites. I totally recommend this recipe!

Birthday Dinner Part Deux, with Friends

Summery Sandwich Fixin's 

To cap off my weekend of celebrations, one of my very close friends and her husband came over for a dinner date - as a bit of a belated birthday time together. They are such wonderful people and it always feels great to be together with them. 

When we were brainstorming what to have for our low-key dinner party, the idea of veggie burgers came up. But I guess I'm not all that jazzed about veggie burgers lately. Then I remembered one of my all-time favorite sandwiches: The Grilled Herb Tofu Sandwich with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto from The Real Food Daily Cookbook. It's especially fun because our friends are farmers who grow organic strawberries and tomatoes -- and I used the very last of my sundried tomatoes from last year's crop for the pesto!  I guess I didn't get a picture of the finished sandwiches, but here you can see all the parts - fresh sandwich rolls from the bakery near our house, a big dish of sun-dried tomato pesto, grilled tofus (after marinating 24 hours in a fresh herby marinade), sauteed red onions, and fresh greens. Such a magical combo.

enormous platter of salad goodness

Jane brought along a huge and amazing salad: fresh greens, red bell peppers, red raspberries, blanched sugar snap peas (good salad idea!), and a center of the most perfect potatoes ever -- cooked and seasoned with total perfection. Between the four of us, there was just a tiny little bit of salad left over at the end of the evening. It was too delicious to stop ourselves!

summery fruit crisp

For dessert, I made a simple fruit crisp with a mixture of peaches, apricots, blackberries, and blueberries. The topping was something I pretty much made up: some whole wheat pastry flour, oats, slivered almonds, cinnamon & nutmeg, a little bit of brown sugar. It was such a yummy and summery dessert.

A Cherry Party With Myself

my favorite

I always associate my birthday with cherries and stonefruits and after a few years of not-great cherry harvests, this year was a pretty good year for cherries here in California. Apparently, this week was the last week for cherries at our market - and only one farmer still had any to sell. I always make the most of the brief cherry season by going ALL IN for the entire duration! Non-stop cherry eating! When I heard it was the last week for cherries, I took the plunge and bought $20 worth of cherries -- many of which were eaten before I made it home in order to take this picture. What a perfect way to top off a weekend of festivities... with my own private cherry indulgences. There are still some left, and I'll be sure to savor them. Until next year, cherries! 

i love cherries!

Phew! After all that eating and cooking and celebrating, I'm really looking forward to this weekend, with many fewer commitments. I'm scheming up a weekend of working on more blog posts, lots of yoga, Sanskrit homework, dog walks, friend time, and maybe even catching up on my emails!

~ Giveaway Winner! ~
Hey! By the way! Congrats to Sarahhhhhhh for winning a copy of Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen! woooooot! Send me an email : ameyfm (at) yahoo (dot) com and we'll get you your book!