September 30, 2011

Hug a Vegetarian!


Happy Hug a Vegetarian Day!

I love keeping track of all the fun days people come up with. Yesterday was National Coffee Day, for example. Did everyone have a cup? I did! I haven't drank much coffee lately, and it got me all wound up!


Today, though, is Hug a Vegetarian Day! What a fun idea. Bring on the hugs!

Do you know how much meat the average American eats?? Crazy amounts, that's how much. If everyone scaled back to 1 or 2 meatless dinners a week, we would be a healthier society. There are so many nutritional and environmental benefits to consuming less meat. You can reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and so much more just by limiting meat in your diet. Our planet would thank you, too, because livestock farming has a huge carbon footprint.

Meatless Mondays, anyone?

I promise it's not hard. Here are some great options & you'll never miss the meat:


Quick Tomato Veggie Pasta

Roasted Tomato Grilled Cheese

Grilled Sweet Potato Beer Fries

Roasted Curried Root Veggies

Broccoli Potato Chowder

Alex's Ulitmate Pizza Crust

September 28, 2011

Attempting Chipotle Burritos

One of the perks of eating at Chipotle is the variety and options available. It's no extra work if everyone wants a different variety of burrito, because they're all there and ready to scoop. And it's ALWAYS delicious!

Another perk is their great dedication to a better food world. I'm sure you noticed already, but I feel very strongly about sustainable eating. I love knowing that when I'm giving my money to a company, I'm also giving it to a cause I believe in.

Luckily, the Bup and I have very similar taste, so when I decided to try to make Chipotle-like burritos for dinner, I didn't need to go overboard with options.

Chipotle is nice enough to provide their ingredients on their website. I followed their loose instructions and the result, while really tasty, wasn't quite the same. Close though for at home eating, though! I think my main problem was the wrap. It was only about half the size of theirs, so I couldn't fill it as full. It was also whole wheat, which has a stronger flavor than the ones at Chipotle. If you're going to recreate this, I'd recommend using a very large, plain flavored wrap.

For their black beans, here's what they say: "Our black beans are seasoned with cumin, garlic and other spices, then slow cooked until tender and slightly al dente."  I didn't have time to slow cook them, so I tried cooking them in a little water to soften them. It worked! I was looking for flavor more than anything else, though. The "other spices" part gets a little tricky, but they have a Mexican flair so I used onion powder & chili powder.

The Fajita Vegetables weren't too hard - they're just green bell peppers, red onions, and some fresh oregano. I love this part of the burrito experience, so I put in the extra (minimal) effort.

I skipped the rice, even though I love it. When we eat at Chipotle I usually get the salad, which I love having the rice on. In a tortilla, though, I feel like it's optional. The Bup doesn't really like rice in his burritos, so I didn't mind doing without, too.

We made fresh salsa earlier in the week in the VitaMix, so I'm using that.

I thought the guacamole would be the hardest part to replicate, but it turned out the best!
"Hand mashed, ripe Hass avocados, mixed with freshly chopped cilantro, red onions, jalapeƱo peppers, citrus juice, salt and selected spices until silky, sexy and delicious."
"Silky, sexy & delicious" is right! Again, it's those "selected spices" that are the kicker. I used my VitaMix for the guac, and I think that's a key step. It's always so creamy and thick. I usually use a fork to mash the avocado, which results in a tasty but chunky guac. In the blender, all the flavors really come together and it gets super creamy.

The fixings, minus the lettuce and the tortilla chips we used to finish off the guac. :-)

Assembled & ready to eat!

Almost Chipotle Burritos
Inspired by Chipotle
Serves 2

1 1/2 c cooked black beans (or 1 15oz. can, drained & rinsed)
1/2 c water
1 1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp minced garlic
3/4 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 medium red onion, sliced
1 medium bell pepper, sliced
1 T fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 c fresh tomato salsa
Guacamole (see recipe below)
2 large tortillas (we used small whole wheat ones, which altered the traditional flavor & texture too much)
Optional garnishes: shredded lettuce, cheddar cheese, sour cream, fresh corn

In a nonstick pan, heat black beans and water on low. Add cumin, minced garlic, onion powder, chili powder & salt. Cook on low for 10-15 minutes, stirring often, until water has cooked off, and the beans soften and begin to break apart. Remove from pan, place in serving dish and set aside.
Using the same pan, lightly saute bell pepper and red onion for about 5 minutes on low, just until slightly wilted. Toss with fresh oregano.
If desired, heat tortillas in the nonstick pan or in the microwave, wrapped in a damp cloth.  Fill with beans, fajita vegetables, salsa, guacamole, and other garnishes, to taste.

1 avocado
1 small jalapeno pepper, deveined and seeded (unless you want a hot kick to it!)
1/2 small red onion, chopped
2 T lime juice
1/2 tsp dried cilantro (or 1 T fresh cilantro)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Prepare guacamole by pureeing the avocado, jalapeno, red onion, lime juice, cilantro, salt, and garlic powder in a blender or food processor until smooth. (If you prefer chunky guacamole, mash with a fork by hand. Just make sure the onion is finely chopped!) Place in a small bowl along with the pit from the avocado and cover tightly. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

September 26, 2011

Weekend Love

Things I was loving this weekend:

* Stay-at-home date night with the Bup on Friday was the perfect ending to the week! We made Pineapple Tempeh Stir-Fry, went to the grocery store, and watched Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead. The movie was funny and informative. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who wants some entertaining motivation to lose weight.

* On Saturday morning, I bought a huge box of bell peppers at the farmer's market to chop and freeze. We still have about a dozen in the fridge even after freezing 3 gallon + 1 quart bags of chopped pepper. That should last us the winter and provide us with a lot of soups and stir-fries!

* A trip to King of Prussia Mall, complete with:

2 great friends who are going to kill me when they see that I posted this picture on the internet

California Pizza Kitchen - We split the Greek pizza (with avocados instead of chicken) and the Tostada pizza (like a taco, but in pizza form). I liked the Tostada better, especially after they brought us the salsa to dip it in!

<3 An engagement announcement from a my lifelong, almost-sister - Congrats to Laura & Andrew! <3

Some deals at Forever 21, including the jacket above.

A stop at my favorite grocery store in the whole wide world - Trader Joe's!  

* Bridesmaid dress shopping with some fun girls. We went to David's Bridal & Alfred Angelo (click to see the fave!) & tried on a ton of dresses! It was fun getting to know some of the other girls better.

*Lunch at Chili's. I think it's fun to eat with a large group of people and have a leisurely meal. We had time to kill between appointments, so this was great. I was happy to see that they offer to substitute a black bean burger for the meat burgers! It wasn't the best bean burger I've had out, but I appreciated that the option was there.

*Dessert at my parents' house after a nice evening walk through town with my Bup. It was great to catch up and enjoy Mom's peach dessert.

*Baking Apple Cider Donuts from Mama Pea. I was way too full to enjoy one last night, but it was hard to resist. I brought one to work for with my lunch today and they are delicious. I was going to use the rest of the apple cider for something else, but I'll probably just make another batch of these!

What did you love about this weekend?

September 24, 2011

Pineapple Tempeh Stir Fry

Does anyone ever get in the mood for green beans?

Me neither.

I mean, they're fine and everything, but I'd rather have broccoli. Or zucchini. Or eggplant. They're just not my first choice. I don't grow them in the garden, but we always have an abundant supply from family every year. The in-laws, my parents, and my grandparents all grow them and we end up with just the right amount. 

I run out of ways to cook them, and I have to keep things interesting or we get sick of them. We've roasted, grilled, steamed, stir-fried and made soup out of our green beans, but we needed a fresh taste to them.

They were delicious! Paired with the chewy tempeh and the sweet pineapple glaze, we greatly enjoyed what will probably be our last batch of green beans for the season. 

First, I made the marinade. I got the idea from the Orange Pan-glazed Tempeh on I made a lot of changes, the biggest of which was using pineapple juice instead of orange juice. 

Tempeh is a very nutritious protein source. 20g of protein per serving! The ingredients are also all recognizable, which is something I look for on a package. It has a slightly nutty taste and a chewy texture that we really like. 

Slice the tempeh block in half to make the pieces thinner. I cut it into 16 triangles, just to be fancy!

Pour the sauce over it and let it marinade for about half an hour. We went to the grocery store during that time, so it was probably a little longer, but I'd recommend at least 30 minutes for full flavor.

Remove the tempeh from the sauce and cook it up.

These are the green beans in their ice bath. I briefly steamed them and then dumped them in cold water to stop the cooking. 

Once the tempeh is done, use the same pan to crisp up the green beans. I like to get little brown bubbles on the sides of them from being against the hot pan.

Pour on the sauce. Please ignore my weird duck hand in this pic.

Add the tempeh and bring the sauce to a boil. Mmmmm! It smelled so good!

Pineapple Tempeh Stir Fry
Inspired by
Serves 2

1 8 oz. pkg. tempeh (any variety, I used Flax)
1 c pineapple juice
1/2 T minced garlic
1 T minced ginger
1 T tamari (or soy sauce)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2-1 lb. fresh green beans, cleaned

Whisk together pineapple juice, garlic, ginger, tamari, and crushed red pepper. Slice tempeh into 1/4" thick pieces of your desired size. Lay in a single layer in a shallow dish. Pour sauce over tempeh and let marinade for 30 minutes. In the meantime, clean green beans and steam lightly. Submerge immediately into an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Remove tempeh from sauce, reserving sauce for later. In a hot skillet, cook tempeh until it begins to crisp, about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove tempeh from pan and set aside. Using the same skillet, cook green beans until they are heated through and the sides are slightly browned from the pan. Add tempeh and sauce and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce reduces by half, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately, drizzling any sauce left in pan over beans and tempeh.

September 22, 2011

Multi-Generational Blenders

The Vitamix is here! The Vitamix is here!

Sorry if you heard our excitement from miles away on Monday! I haven't been so excited for a kitchen appliance since receiving my KitchenAid for Christmas a few years ago. Thanks Mom & Dad for the great gift!

The first thing we made was salsa, like the stuff you get at Mexican restaurants. I used a recipe from the cookbook that came with it, but subbed fresh purple basil for the cilantro because that's what we had. Hence the purplish hue.

The Bup informed me that we have a multi-generational collection of blending/chopping appliances.
Hamilton Beach Hand Blender Delivers More Taste, Less Cleanup

Actually, this was on loan from my mom up until a few days ago when we bought her one so we could keep it. The sole purpose of this is blending soups or other stuff that's hot and in a pot. It's fun to watch the chunks get sucked into the whirlpool and come out smooth. (Yes, I'm weird!)
Bonus: it's super easy to clean. Rinse, wipe with soapy sponge, rinse, dry.

I use it for: soup
Mirro Foley 3.5-Quart Stainless Steel Food Mill

Another donation from Mom's kitchen, this spends most of the year stored away. When I do use it, though, I'm so thankful that it has a home in my kitchen! Anything that goes through it comes out perfectly pureed and free of all seeds, skins, & miscellaneous chunks. Plus I get a good arm workout turning the handle!

I use it for: tomato sauce, peach butter, applesauce
Bella Cucina 17-pc. Rocket Blender

This is super nice because the container is a cup so you can just blend, put on a lid, and go. I rarely use the multiple sizes, but maybe if I didn't have so stinkin' many other blenders, I would! :-)

I use it for: smoothies, lattes

Ninja Master Prep Professional Blender, Chopper and Ice Crusher More Powerful & 2x Faster

This thing is amazing. It works like a blender and a food processor. The only problem is that if you need to process something for a long time, you have to hold down the on button and then it starts to overheat. It also doesn't completely chop things, so green smoothies require extra blending and still aren't always perfectly smooth.

I use it for: hummus, banana soft serve, smoothies, pumpkin puree, cashew cream, cabbage slaw, Mmmm Sauce, dressing

TurboBlend VS

Eeeeeeeek!! This was our anniversary present from my parents. Super sweetness!

We've only owned it since Monday, but I made fresh salsa and cashew butter so far. I'm still learning how it works, so I'm taking it slowly. Smoothies are up next and I can't wait!!

I'm going to use it for: Everything under the sun!

KitchenAid 7-Cup Food Processor

I own this but it doesn't have all the parts so it only partially functions. Mine has a smaller bowl that fits into the large bowl, allowing me to process small portions of food. It works great that way, but I don't have the blade that lets me process in the big bowl. I rarely use it because the Ninja has bigger bowls. It would be great for nut butters if I could use the big bowl. But now I have a VitaMix! 

Anyone in the market for a small food processor??

If you'd like further reading on helpful appliances, check out this great article on appliances that make healthy eating easier. I really can't imagine not having at least a regular blender. I use at least 1 of these almost every day. Just yesterday I used my Ninja (grate cabbage) & VitaMix (cashew butter).

Moral of the story: Get a blender! It doubles your food options!

Note: Please don't ever make me move to a smaller kitchen. I have more kitchen appliances than I can handle! You just never know what you might need.

**Photo credits go to and**

September 20, 2011

How To: Pumpkin Puree

I love pumpkin puree.

 Remember that HUGE pumpkin we grew last year? Over 30 pounds?! 

Seriously huge. 

It didn't even fully ripen because the frost hit long before it had time to finish growing. I can't imagine the size if it had more time!

Even the chunks of it dwarfed my cutting board and even the toaster oven!

It broke our blender.

We got a new one for the second half.

Seriously a ton of pumpkin.

Well, this year, no random pumpkin vine started growing and by the time I thought to plant one it was too late.

Luckily, they're selling them at the market. I got one for $1 that weighed 8.4 pounds!

Since I love pumpkin so much, one of the most important things that I do in the fall is bake, puree, and freeze pumpkin. That way I have it ready to go all winter long.

Step 1: Buy a really huge pumpkin.

The bigger, the better. Once you get rolling, it's easiest to do it all at once. If you can't find a big pumpkin, use 2 smaller ones. I don't really like messes, so the less times I go through this process the better!

Step 2: Cut it in big chunks.

Preheat your oven to 375 before you start chopping. I usually chop the neck part into at least 4 chunks and then the round part in half. You will need a very sharp knife. Use carefully!

Step 3: Remove seeds & pulp.

The easiest way to remove all the goop is with a metal spoon. It's not sharp, but it scrapes the stuff out well. Reserve the pulp for Step 6.

Step 4: Place chunks face down on baking sheets.

Using as many baking sheets as necessary, lay the pumpkin chunks with the insides down on the sheets. There's no need to grease the sheets.

Step 5: Put in oven and pour water onto baking sheets.

Put the baking sheets in the oven before adding water to them! I always make a mess otherwise. Once they are in the oven, carefully pour enough water over them to cover the bottom of the sheet with about 1/4" of water. Let bake for 40-45 minutes or until soft. You can check doneness by poking through the skin of the thickest chunk with a fork. If the fork slides in easily, they're done.

Step 6: Clean seeds.

Time to get messy! This step is optional but worth it cause you can eat the results right away. Sort through the pulp (it's easiest to use your hands) to remove all the seeds. Discard the pulp. Rinse seeds and dry with a towel.

Step 7: Season and bake seeds.

Season the seeds however you wish. I used salt and pepper this time, but we like curry powder a lot, too. Lay seeds flat on a greased baking sheet or pie pan. Bake for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. They are done when they are lightly browned and crisp.

Step 8: Let pumpkin cool.

Remove pumpkin from the oven, being careful not to spill any water that may remain on the baking sheets. Set aside to cool for about an hour. I always try to work with it too quickly and burn myself. Don't do that.

Step 9: Remove outer skin.

Using either your hands or a spoon, scrape the cooked pumpkin off of the outer skin. Discard skins.

Step 10: Puree in food processor/blender.

Working in batches, put cooked pumpkin into a food processor or blender. Process until smooth and creamy.

Step 11: Divide and freeze or use.

I usually freeze my puree in 1.5-2 cup batches. Most recipes call for anywhere between .5-1.5 cups of pumpkin, and I like to have leftovers for things like pumpkin oatmeal and pumpkin drinks.

Some yummy things to make with your pumpkin puree:

September 19, 2011

Wine Tasting

We went extra fancy on Friday night and did a wine tasting at The Hotel Hershey. It was part of the kickoff for their Food & Wine Festival. Earlier in the week, employees were offered a discounted price for the reception, so we decided to go.

Chateau Montelena Wine Reception

Friday, September 16 | 7 - 8 PM

"Mingle with other guests and ambassadors of the esteemed Chateau Montelena winery, featured in the movie Bottle Shock, as you sample wines from their collection and enjoy delicious hors d’oeuvres in the Blue Mountain Room above Harvest."

Our first wine was their 2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay. It was just my kind of wine! Light & crisp but still slightly sweet with a distinct fruity taste. Brian, one of the gentleman from the winery, helped us learn a little about tasting wine and their wines.

Their featured wine for the night was the 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a much drier wine, more what the Bup likes. I actually drank the whole sample, so it wasn't as dry or woody as many cab sauvs are. Not my style, but I could still appreciate it.

Our waitress was wonderful! She found out we loved the veggie spring rolls and kept bringing us plates of them for on our table. They were perfect for with the wines!   We ate a light dinner beforehand because I was worried there wouldn't be any vegetarian options for the hors d'oeuvres. The other 3 were all meat, so it was good that we ate before going, because spring rolls aren't quite enough dinner for me.

I'm so sad this pic turned out dark! We dressed up for the tasting and so we just had to get pictures.

It was a good thing I wore a sweater because after the tasting we went out to Jazz on the Veranda. I hope to go back before it's over for the season (only 2 more nights left!) because it was so nice sitting on the veranda and listening to the live music. The Bup and I even danced to one of the slow songs.

I was in the mood for ice cream and others were in the mood for beer, so we went to The Gas Station. They have a few tables with beer taps built in and we sat there. It was about the only spot left.

They make their own ice cream in house & it is excellent! I ordered Double Chocolate Marshmallow. Yum!!

The Bup got Red Velvet Cake, which was okay but not nearly as good as mine. :-)

Fun evening with friends!

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