Monday, April 8, 2013

Barely Homemade

Sandra Lee's semi-homemade approach is a little more cutesy than I care for (well, with the exception of her cocktail time which I can totally get behind.) In my secret fantasy life that I don't really want and doesn't at all seem like me, but intrigues me all the same, I am a stay-at-home socialite with a proclivity toward faux feather boas in pastel pink and martinis. What does this have to do with the stir fry photo below?

Sorry, I must have sipped one too many martinis imagining my fantasy life and got off track. My point was Sandra Lee's efforts can seem like mostly-homemade compared to what you can do with the magic of Trader Joe's. Case in point: my lunch this weekend. This meal consisted of 5 ingredients and 8 minutes:

1) Trader Joe's Japanese Fried Rice
I really love this stuff which can be a vegan meal in itself. The rice is slightly sweet with tons of umami (from "tell umami this stuff is so freaking good" aka savory/satisfying). Takes 5 minutes to steam in the microwave.
Source: Trader Joe's

2) Gardein Chick'n Scallopini
In my top 3 favorite faux meats, the Gardein scallopini are solid starters for any dish you want to make. Takes about 7-8 minutes from frozen to fantastic in a medium hot skillet. Trader Joe's doesn't carry these, but they do have several other faux meat alternatives that could serve in a pinch.
Source: Gardein
3) Cub Foods' Japanese Vegetable Stir Fry or Trader Joe's frozen veggie blend of your choice
Why is it so hard to find a bag of mixed vegetables you'd want in a stir fry (broccoli, onion, red peppers, carrots, water chestnuts and mushrooms)? It seems like a no brainer this would be a way more popular blend than that boring and unappealing corn, green beans and carrots combo from childhood. 

A pinch goes a long way of this pineapple sweetened teriyaki sauce with ginger, garlic and sesame seeds, but it really brings a bag of frozen veggies (or fresh) and some gardein chick'n to the next level.

/Source: Trader Joe's
5) Optional, Secret Ingredient: Huy Fong Foods' Chili Garlic Sauce
Not as spicy as siracha, but adds heat and extra garlic to your dish by the spoonful. This stuff rocks, but is not sold at Trader Joe's... yet. 
Source: Huy Fong Foods

I made this meal at my home, so it needs to count as at least "barely homemade." What? Sometimes you just want a tasty meal and time left to enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Vegan Feast

Compassionate Action for Animals hosted their Annual Banquet tonight, celebrating fifteen years of advocating for animals. This was our first time attending the event which was widely regarded as a vegan feast of epic proportions and lived up to the hype. The food was accented with great company and a year in review speech by my fiance :)

The proof is in the photos. Check out this amazing plant-based, vegan spread:

Drool worthy hors d'oeuvres (starting at 9 on the dinner plate): plantain hush puppy, potato knish turnover, "Camembert" and pear crostini, rice and lentil idli, brown rice veggie sushi roll, and cucumber radish finger sandwich with herbed "cream cheese".

Vegans at the table were excited they didn't have to ask about the bread's ingredients and got "butter".

Simple salad with highly sought after cherry tomatoes (see story below)

Mushroom barley soup

Gardein Chick'n Scallopini done 2 ways: cacciatore sauce and lemon tarragon; herbed scalloped potatoes, veggie fried rice and lo mein and ginger carrots. 

Strawberry shortcake with a whipped cream made from coconut 

Chocolate "cheesecake" with rasberry coulis and candied almonds

Dessert table featured lemon tart, strawberry short cake, chocolate "cheesecake", and carrot cake. Yum!
In what can only be described as an episode of overwhelming adorable-ness, a young boy came around to our table during desserts and asked politely if he could have some of our table's leftover salad. What? There is sugary goodness in the forms of cakes and tarts and you want our salad? Yes, tomatoes are my favorite. And so he proceeded to fill up his salad plate picking and choosing to get as many tomatoes as he could with the salad tongs. The adults at the table exchanged looks and shrugged it off. A few minutes later the boy was back and asked again if he could have more salad. We asked him more about his love of tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes were his favorite and there was a gold mine to be had in the dozen salad bowls in the room. He planned to not stop until he ate every last one. We wished him well and watched him happily saunter away with another plate of salad loaded with his favorite tomatoes. A few minutes later we saw him confused at the missing salad bowls at the tables he hadn't yet reached, and pointed to the volunteer who was carrying the bowls back to the kitchen. He was off in a sprint to recapture his treasure trove.

Stuffed, but committed, I hopped on my bike and fulfilled my 30 days of biking pledge with a quick ride.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Morrocan Birthday Fun

My fiance treated me to a sweet birthday, including a homemade dinner and baked from scratch birthday cake (the first cake he's ever made from scratch!) He also got me a Penny Larsen Jewelry necklace with a Minnesota charm that has a red stone near my hometown. I had been eyeing the necklace longingly at shops since February. 

For dinner, he made a Moroccan tagine substituting quinoa for the couscous. It is the Year of Quinoa after all (and we didn't have any couscous.) Couscous is a ball of semolina flour (the stuff used in spaghetti noodles); whereas, quinoa is a grain-like seed that happens to be a complete protein. You can find both in the bulk section or the pasta/rice section of most groceries. Yeah, but what's a tagine?

Tagine refers to both a rich stew and a type of clay pot usually used to prepare said stew. Tagine pots are clay with a bowl like bottom and a clay lid that is cone-shaped. The perk of the tagine pot is that it minimizes the amount of water needed to cook the stew by collecting and recondensing the steam from the slow simmering stew. This is especially useful in places with little access to water - like North Africa where the dish originates. Being from the land of 10,000 lakes, we don't have a tagine, but a cast iron dutch oven does the job in a pinch.

You can read more about this specific tagine and get a link to the recipe at my fiance's blog

For the made-from-scratch chocolate cake with ganache, Isa Chandra Moskowitz from Post Punk Kitchen, yet again, offers a stellar vegan "Just Chocolate Cake" recipe. That lady sure knows how to bake! Not to worry, we're doing the 30 Days of Biking pledge to ride our bikes every day in April, so we burned off some of the cake calories.