I Rule. General Tao's tofu

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Have you ever had one of those moments after cooking a feast where you think, "Did I seriously just make this? In my kitchen? And it tastes this good?"

If you haven't (and dang, I really hope you have, it's better than se....wait. No it's not. But still), then try this recipe. Not only is it fabulous, it's fabulously easy. And while it is vegetarian (you can make it vegan by simply swapping the egg out for an egg substitute), I wouldn't necessarily call it healthy. The sugar kind of squelches that, but shoot, I started my day off with oat bran, sailed through lunch on a Boca burger and spinach salad and did boot camp. I'll be damned if I can't have myself a bit o'sugah!

General Tao's Tofu.
(Or, as I have now donned it, Fake Out the Take Out)

1 box of firm tofu
egg substitute for 1 egg
3/4 cup cornstarch
vegetable oil for frying
3 chopped green onions
1 Tablespoon minced ginger
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
2/3 cup vegetable stock
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
4 Tablespoons sugar
red pepper flakes to taste
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
steamed broccoli

Directions: Drain, dry and cut tofu into 1 inch chunks. You can freeze tofu the night before to get a more chicken-like consistency, but it isn't necessary. Mix the egg replacer as specified on the box and add an additional 3 tablespoons water. Dip tofu in egg replacer/water mixture and coat completely. Sprinkle 3/4 cup cornstarch over tofu and coat completely. Watch out that the cornstarch doesn't clump up at the bottom of the bowl.

Heat oil in pan and fry tofu pieces until golden. Drain oil.

Heat 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil in pan on medium heat. Add green onions, bell pepper, red pepper flakes, ginger and garlic, cook for about 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn garlic.

Add vegetable stock, soy sauce, sugar, red pepper and vinegar. Mix 2 Tablespoons water with 1 Tablespoon cornstarch and pour into mixture stirring well.

Add fried tofu and coat evenly. Serve immediately with steamed broccoli over your choice of rice.
Serves: 4
Preparation time: 30 Minutes

Try Its: A Great Way to Get Hydrated and Gingerbread-Laced Protein

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Daaaaang. How are these so good? What in god's name are the folks over at Glaceau putting in this water? Happiness. Happiness is what they're putting in there, I tell you. Here's the downer - you're paying roughly $1.50 for water (if you get it on sale). So I treat myself to about two per week because, shoo, I start to feel bad not only for paying that much for tasty water, but using that many bottles. Regardless, YUM.

Yes. I know Clif bars can be boring. But I exercise like whoa roughly 3 times per week and if I don't eat something protein-y and hearty beforehand, I vomit. That's right. I barf. So protein bars for me need to be tasty, none of that sawdust nastiness they try to pass off as food. Enter the Clif Iced Gingerbread. These should be illegal.

I have several new recipes to share, but for some reason (you know, besides being my own fault), my pictures didn't translate property when I emailed them here to work.

(Yeah. Sometimes I blog from work. I bet you're reading this from work, so there.)

I have to say, I carried on the veganism. 100%, no. I'm not giving up dairy, I'm just not. But I feel better when I don't consume as much of it, or it's cousin, meat. Oh, and I've also lost 6lbs. Holler.

Vegan Week, Days 4 and 5: Living La Vida Loca

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I was a bit worried about Day 4's dinner. After going to great lengths to be creative with meals, I figured it was time to use simple vegan substitutions for an everyday meal.

Tacos, baby. Luscious, meaty, cheesy, crunchy tacos.

My heart fell when I realized these tacos would be "meaty," and "cheezy." But it was time to test the waters of Vegan Week.

Success! Smart Ground Mexican crumbles are pretty darn tasty and I'm not sure I'll be returning to regular meat for my tacos hereafter. But the real test would be the cheese. Fake cheese product could truly ruin a good taco. Luckily, Veggie Slices stood up to the challenge. it even melts for crying out loud!

Day 5 saw me forgetting my camera. Breakfast was oat bran (seriously, try this stuff.). Lunch was leftover risotto that I topped with fresh spinach (fresh spinach can be put into damn near anything savory and it offers up extra nutrients and fiber), soy yogurt and a Fuji apple. Followed up by a yummy Caramel Apple Spice from Starbucks. I decided those were vegan, so hopefully there aren't any milk derivatives floating around in 'em. Don't tell me if there are. Ignorance = bliss once in a while.

I drank my dinner last night. Don't judge.

Vegan Week, Day 3: This Is What Creams Are Made Of

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What's the best thing to do on a cold, autumn Wednesday night? Fill a bag with fresh produce and head to your friend's house to drink wine, build a fire and read about your astonishingly correct astrological signs while making dinner.

I showed up at Jennifer's door with a bag full of asparagus, onions, celery and cashews (more on that later) and she was just getting started on an amazing BBQ "chik'n" pizza on Trader Joe's whole wheat crust. To go with it, I sauteed and simmered my cold, black little heart out on this amazing Cream of Asparagus soup from Tal Ronnen.

How do you get a cream o-anything in a vegan lifestyle? Cashews, baby. Before you turn up your omnivorous nose, try it. I triple-dog dare ya. (no dogs were harmed in the making of that sentence.

Cream of Asparagus Soup
from A Conscious Cook

3 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
1 large bunch asparagus, ends trimmed,cut into 2-inch pieces
2 stalks celery, choped
1 large onion, chopped
2 quarts vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 cup cashew cream*
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups fresh baby spinach

1. Place a large stockpot over medium heat. Sprinkle bottom with a pinch of salt and heat for 1 minute. Add oil and heat for 30 seconds, being careful not to let it smoke.

2. Add asparagus, celeery and onion and saute for 6-10 minutes, until celery is just soft. Add stock and bay leaf, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add cashew cream and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf, season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Working in batches, pour soup into a food processor and puree. Add spinach to last batch and blend to smooth. Pour soup into large bowl and stir in spinach batch. Ladle into bowls.

*Cashew Cream: put 2 cups of cashews into a bowl and cover with cold water. Refrigerate overnight covered. Drain cashes and rinse under cold water. Place in blender with enough fresh cold water to cover them by an inch. Blend on high for several minutes until very smooth.

Vegan Week, Day 2

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veterans Day, folks! Hopefully this day finds you not sitting in an office in front of a computer, but rather sitting here, reading I Pray to Gouda. I mean, you don't have anything else to do today, right?

Day 2 of this vegan life showed me a tempting side to life. Case in point:

My lunch at an all-staff meeting: salad, steamed veggies and bread.

The luscious, chocolatey, cream cheese-filled dessert that accompanied the other staff members' lunch.

I did not cave! Instead, I ate a Clif Z-bar, Chocolate Brownie flavor to be exact. These are almost as tasty as the Mojo bars from Clif, and the perfect size if you are searching for a sweet, midday snack. My ability to avoid those little chocolate pieces of heaven at lunch meant I needed to have a great dinner. Enter Tal Ronnen's Lemon Asparagus Risotto from his new vegan cookbook, A Conscious Cook. Stephanie and Ally put aside meat and cheese to imbibe in this vegan dinner. Thanks, girls!

Lemon Asparagus Risotto

from The Conscious Cook

Sea Salt

1 lb asparagus, cut into 1" pieces

ground black pepper

3 Tb olive oil

3 shallots, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups Arborio rice

1 cup plus a splash of dry white wine

6 cups vegetable stock (optional: boil the broth with 3-4 dried porcini mushrooms. This will give it a meatier flavor)

Grated zest of 3 Meyer lemons

Juice of 2 Meyer lemons

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted.

1. Fill small pot with water. Add 1 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Blanch the asparagus in boiling water for 1 minute, drain and season with salt and pepper.

2. Place large saute pan with steep sides over medium heat. Sprinkle bottom with a pinch of salt and heat for 1 minute. Add pinch of salt and rice and saute for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Add in shallots, onions, lemon juice and wine. Saute until onions are soft.
4. Start adding in the broth, 1 cup at a time. Wait for each cup to be absorbed by the rice prior to adding the next cup. This process will take about 30 minutes (be patient, it's worth it!).
5. Add in lemon zest, a dash of salt and pepper, and top with pine nuts.

Vegan Week, Day 1

Monday, November 9, 2009

Holla! I made it through Day 1, and without a scratch. That doesn't count my raw, blistered palms from asphalt pushups in boot camp. That was a rough hour. Now I'm avoiding homework by watching Tivo'd Desperate Housewives. Don't judge.

Breakfast: Have you ever tried Oat Bran?! It's crazy awesome. If Oat Bran and oatmeal got in a scuffle in the alley behind the gymnasium, Oat Bran would totally kick oatmeal's hiney. And this combo will blow your mind with the additional bonus of tiding you over until lunch.

- Oat bran
- "Melted banana" - try this: microwave a banana for 30 seconds. It slightly caramelizes and stirs right into the Oat Bran.
- Kingslake and Crane Mahalo Granola Mix. Holy amazing. And California-made.
- Dash o'brown sugar. Or maybe 1/4 cup. Whatevs.

Lunch: this documentation is going to give you a pretty good view of my office. Especially since I tend to work through lunch.

- Pita, filled with spinach, mushrooms, snap peas, cilantro-lime hummus and Tofurkey. Hell naw to the Tofurkey. That stuff will not enter mi boca ever again.
- Wholesoy & Co. Yogurt: YES, YES, YES! I think I like this more than milk-based yogurt! It's richer and not as thick. A-ma-zing.

Snack: Nugget brand trail mix and a Starbucks VIA instant coffee. Have you tried VIA yet? It's great. Dissolves more easily. Stronger than usual instant coffees. Rock on.

Pre-boot camp snack: buy these NOW. Clif Mojo bars in Peanut Butter Pretzel.

Dinner: I totally rocked dinner! I went low-key since I'll be doing some heavy-lifting cooking for the next few days.

- Amy's Lowfat Split-pea soup. Ok, so this was the last chance I was giving Amy. I've tried several of the products and I've wanted to vomit in my mouth with each bite. This soup is dee-LI-cious.
- Salad with OrganicGirl lettuce blend (California lovin'! OrganicGirl is in Salinas), mushrooms, snap peas, cucumber and Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs.
- Sweet potato fries! Cut a sweet potato into 1/2" disks and bake at 450 degrees for 20 minuts on a baking sheet sprayed with veggie spray. Dip in sumpin'.
Today was a good day. I do not yet miss cheese, although I'm dyin' for some half and half. Is it bad I'm already looking forward to tomorrow morning's oat bran? I'm lame.

Welcome to Vegan Week 2009

Look at that veggie and fruit-packed refrigerator! And hummus. And soy mayonnaise. And Tofurkey.

Yep. It's that time again. Time for Faith to ditch anything coming from our animal friends and dive into the exciting world of veganism. If you'll remember last time, this experiment didn't go well. I was a dairy-free mess of a girl and mean (-er than usual). This year promises to go a tiny bit more smoothly due to ample research and participatory friends (who have no clue what they're getting into).

So sit back and enjoy while I hopefully survive while also showing how to enjoy plant-based cuisine in a meat-obsessed world.

Two Things I'm Lovin' Right Now

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

1. Chai Spiced Cider from Naked Juice! This shiz is so good! First of all, I love drinking my fruit (because I hate eating it, for real, I'm way more of a veggie girl) and secondly - holy autumn! 4 1/2 apples, yo!

2. Arnold (Oroweat if you're on the West Coast, aka the Best Coast) Sandwich Thins. All the beauty of sandwich bread without the 4,092 carbs and fatty calories.

Feast of San Gennaro

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Head on over to my friend, Sarah's, amazing little blog, The Undercover Caterer, to see the scrump-diddly-umptious dinner we had the pleasure of experiencing on Monday night.

It was in stark contrast to the Chipotle burrito I scarfed down last night while attempting to watch Biggest Loser, write a term paper, and keep Klaster from getting too jealous that a boy was sitting next to me. That dang dog has THE trickiest ways of smuggling himself in the middle of me and whoever else is on my couch.

picture courtesy of Sarah of The Undercover Caterer

It's Oh-ficially Fall.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It sprinkled today. And I'm wearing a very adorable, autumnal sweater with ARGYLE on it. I'm obsessed with argyle in the fall. And pumpkins.

Oh yes.

Oh yes, #2.

And bring on these.

With a Name Like Curd...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Why in the world would they name such a wondrous, lemony, smooth gift from God, "CURD"?

Regardless...a coworker's birthday was dawning and the usual gift card was not in my repertoire. (Not that I mind getting gift cards. Just a quick FYI, there). So, I decided to whip up something, package it in a supercute manner and hand it off to the recipient.

Yeah, so. Hand-juicing and meticulously zesting, then straining 19 lemons? Doesn't quite fit into the "whip up" category. I've never cooked something and then had sore wrists and biceps for days thereafter. On a positive note, as readers of I Pray to Gouda, you all now have free, all access tickets to my gun show. :: flex ::

Homemade Lemon Curd

*"What the heck do I do with it, Faith?"

* Top scones, pancakes, stir into plain yogurt and crepes and whipped cream, english muffins...or pull a Faith and eat it off a spoon.

2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, plus 4 large egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup finely grated lemon peel
1 cup fresh lemon juice (approximately 1 hour later - check out your awesome, toned arms in mirror)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium, heatproof bowl next to stove. In a heavy, medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, lemon juice, eggs, egg yolks and lemon peel. Add butter, cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly (about 5 minutes).

2. Lower heat and simmer. Sitr until mixture thickens (another 5 minutes). Strain mixture into prepared bowl, then press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto surface. Let cool to room temperature. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Hurry! Before It's Too LATE!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Because blueberries are about to head right out of season, yo. Actually, with the way temps are going here in California (um, hot with a side of HOT), blueberries may well be part of the produce sections around here through December. I'm quite over this non-autumn weather we're having. But I'm not sure who to yell at for it.

These blueberry crumble bars are OUTSTANDING. Like - crazy goodness in yer mouth. I made them for a movie night my neighbors and I had (my neighbors? Well, they're the best. I've got two rad school psychologists next door, a sweet, funny plastic surgeon [holllaa!] upstairs who has a supah-hilarious criminal psychiatrist friend who's over a whole heck of a lot, and a majorly kind, cute, 30 year old guy
across the street. Before you go leaving comments about how the two of us should totally, like, date...everything is under control.)

What was ridiculously cool about this movie night is that it was outside and we used a projector to splat the movie right onto the side of the house. Yes.

Blueberry Crumble Bars
courtesy of Smitten Kitchen (congrats on the baby, Deb!)

{Makes roughly 36 smallish rectangles}

1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.
3. In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown.
Cool completely before cutting into squares.

In A Word: Adorable!

Friday, August 28, 2009

I love books. And not in a nerdy way. Well, ok...in a nerdy way. But I have supercute Prada eyeglasses, so that totally takes away from the nerdiness, no?

Penguin is recovering many of their classics (Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations, Sense & Sensibility, etc.) in original art and selling them! The above picture are books recovered in cloth with a matte-foil design, while Pride and Prejudice here has an original illustration from artist Ruben Toledo (who works with Vogue and Harper's Bazaar).

These would be so cute on a floating bookshelf with some funky bookends. However, I also recommend actually reading them. Have you ever been with a bunch of nerds who start whipping out lines from Wuthering Heights while laughing amongst themselves, and you sit there having zero clue what they're talking about?

I hate that.

Don't Eat This Meal If You're Bloated.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Because this dinner won't help you at. all.

But, hey, if you're rockin' the flatter tummy side of things, whip this up! I'm not sure how I befriended so many damn vegetarians (you know, besides the fact that I have a wonderfully, magnetic personality and all. Not bitchy whatsoever. Not I.), but I've made it my life's work to try and please them.

I figured out with this recipe, however, that I'm not so sure I'm a huge wild rice fan. It's so....earthy. And....wild. And while I like to say that I have a wild side (what? I do! It's right there under my pearls and argyle!), the wild side of rice isn't winning me over. I'd make this again with just the orzo, or possibly turn it into a risotto dish.

Oh, by the way, I totally doubled the butter. If you're shocked, you don't know me well.

Wild Rice and Orzo Pilaf With Mushrooms and Pecans
courtesy of Rachael Ray

1/2 cup wild rice
1/2 lb orzo pasta
2 Tb butter
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
2 Tb chopped, fresh sage
1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1. Cook wild rice according to package directions, transfer to large bowl. Meanwhile, in a pot of boiling, salted water, cook orzo until al dente and drain. Add to wild rice.

2. In large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the pecans and sage and cook until nuts are toasted and mushrooms are tender. Stir in peas and chickpeas. Add vegetable mixture to orzo mixture and season with salt.

Well, Check US Out!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Design*Sponge higlighted my very own Sacramento! It looks like they called upon someone named Lisa to expertly give the run down of things to see, places to go and crud to eat in our little big city.

Although, I'm going to have to disagree in a few areas.

1. Babycakes Bakery - only go there if you like your cupcakes dry and crumbly. I'm guessing you like yours moist.

2. Inn at Parkside - customer service goes here to DIE. Die, I say.

3. Tex Wasabi's - quite possibly the most nauseating "food" I've had in a while.

All in all, though, quite a list, and it even has some places I haven't yet been!

Barefoot Bloggers: White Pizza with Arugula and Mango Banana Daiquiris

Friday, August 14, 2009

I'm pretty sure Barefoot Bloggers is going to force me to try things I normally wouldn't (precisely why I joined), because there is no way in hey-ell I would have attempted this pizza otherwise. I HATE making pizzas. It's not that they're difficult. It's that I really, a whole lotta-like, love pizza when it's ordered and shows up on my doorstep. Was this pizza worth it? It was worth trying. It's a healthy alternative to the Meat Lovers situation you find yourself in on a Friday evening, chasing with beer.

Thing is...I like the cheesy, greasy fattiness of chasing cheesy, greasy pizza with beer.

But if you want to lighten things up a bit, I say go for it.* I followed the recipe mostly, but I diverged at some points to throw in some Faith Flair. I tried to get Kim, Tina and Tim to give me their honest opinions - they said they liked it, so I'm going to just have to trust that they weren't feeding me a line.

P.S. The daiquiris were FABULOUS.

*Here's what I don't recommend: staying up until 1:43am afterward, watching an incredibly freaky movie and then lying on a hard sidewalk waiting for a meteor shower to show itself. Just my two cents.

White Pizza with Arugula
adapted from Ina Garten's Back to Basics

For the dough:
1 1/4 cups warm (100 to 110) water
2 packages dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
Good olive oil
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
Kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, sliced
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

For the topping:
3 cups grated Italian fontina cheese (8 ounces)
1 1/2 cups grated fresh mozzarella cheese (7 ounces)
11 ounces creamy goat cheese

Grape tomatoes (I used mini-heirloom), halved

For the vinaigrette:
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces baby arugula
1 lemon, sliced

Mix the dough.

Combine the water, yeast, honey and 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. When the yeast is dissolved, add 3 cups of flour, then 2 teaspoons salt, and mix on medium-low speed. While mixing, add up to 1 more cup of flour, or just enough to make a soft dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with the flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to the bowl.

Knead by hand.

When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured board and knead it by hand a dozen times. It should be smooth and elastic.

Let it rise.

Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and turn it to cover it lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Make garlic oil.

Place 1/2 cup of olive oil, the garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 10 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn't burn. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Dump the dough onto a board . Place the dough on sheet pans lined with parchment paper and cover them with a damp towel. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Stretch the dough.

Press and stretch dough into a large circle and place sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (If you've chilled the dough, take it out of the refrigerator approximately 30 minutes ahead to let it come to room temperature.)

Top the dough.

Brush the pizzas with the garlic oil, and sprinkle each one liberally with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the pizzas evenly with fontina, mozzarella and goat cheese. Drizzle each pizza with 1 tablespoon more of the garlic oil and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the crusts are crisp and the cheeses begin to brown.

Make the vinaigrette.

Meanwhile, whisk together 1/2 cup of olive oil, the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Add the greens.

When the pizzas are done, place the arugula in a large bowl and toss with just enough lemon vinaigrette to moisten. Place a large bunch of arugula on each pizza and a slice of lemon and serve immediately.

Mango Banana Daiquiris
from Ina Garten

2 cups chopped ripe mango (1 to 2 mangos, peeled and seeded)
1 ripe banana, chopped
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (4 limes)
1/4 cup sugar syrup*
1 1/4 cups dark rum
Mango slices, for serving

Place the mango, banana, lime juice, sugar syrup, and rum in a blender and process until smooth. Add 2 cups of ice and process again until smooth and thick. Serve ice-cold in highball glasses with the mango slices.

*To make simple syrup, heat 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Chill.

Happy Birthday, Klaster

Friday, August 7, 2009

This month (roughly - he's an SPCA Special), my little baby turns four years old.

Klaster, thank you for being my best buddy. Thanks for cuddling up when I've cried, decided to randomly nap at odd hours, and been incredibly hungover. Thank you for not freaking out when I belt out Beyonce's "Halo" at the top of my lungs in the shower. Thanks for picking me as your favorite. Thanks for crying at Papa's door when I left you there for the weekend. Thank you for having a really quite adorable underbite that turns into a smile when I say, "Treat?". Thanks for growling at strange noises because you like to pretend you're big enough to protect me. Thanks for pooping in overgrown shrubs and bushes so I don't have to actually pick it up (no one knows it's there!).

Most of all, thanks for picking Papa and me back in 2006 after I saw your picture and fell in love at first sight. Happy birthday, my sweet boy.

*picture courtest of Away to Wag


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I Pray to Gouda is going to go a bit more...random. Oh, I will still bow down to the cheese gods, but there are other things to life besides food!

Grilled Ratatouille - Or So She Calls It.

So...life has changed for me. In a good way. Some people may look at this change as bad, or depressing, but those are generally people who don't know me very well. Those who do now see me as a happier, sunshiny-er, driven person. I'm just minus a spouse. Has life been perfect for the past six months as I've ridden this ride? Naturally, no. Am I headed toward more of life's adventures? Most definitely, yes.

That put me at a cooking crossroads. My previous cooking escapades involved another person I was experimenting with, creating for and sharing with. And when things ended, so did my zest for cooking.

Then I woke up and realized I have WAY too many friends to not bring back this hobby that had previously brought me so much joy, accomplishment and a sense of self-worth. WTF was I thinking? Being surrounded by friendship, food and wine is pretty much my most favorite thing. Ever. So hop back on the ride with me as I now show them what I've got.

Last night, my neighbors, Kim and Luna came over for a deeeelicious dinner of roasted veggies and chicken over couscous with pita wedges I toasted and served with goat cheese. I adapted this from Rachael Ray, who tried to call it ratatouille. I think Rachael Ray is full of poop on this one and has never had the real stuff in France.

Roasted "Ratatouille" over CousCous
adapted from Everyday Rachael Ray

3 large tomatoes, halved crosswise
2 bell peppers, quartered
2 zucchini, thickly sliced lengthwise
1 eggplant, thickly sliced lengthwise
1 onion, thickly sliced crosswise
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Cut veggies into wedges (leave garlic cloves whole) and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast for 25 minutes.
2. After roasting, toss veggies with red wine vinegar and additional salt and pepper.

I served the veggies over couscous and tossed in pre-cooked chicken strips. I then cut pitas into wedges and baked them in the preheated oven for 10 minutes and served with a soft chevre.

I Just Bought $60 Worth of Coffee Beans

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

No joke.

I took myself (well, myself and my rather adorable pug/rat terrier, Klaster) to the gorgeous, California coastal town of Mendocino. Holy retreat, people. Not only do I recommend the dog-friendly Inn at Schoolhouse Creek, I'm going to tell you right now - if you don't hit Moody's Organic Coffee Bar in downtown Mendocino, you really shouldn't bother going at all.

I'm seriously in LOVE, L. O. V. E. with their Rendezvous blend. I bought a bag after casually asking the barista (is it baristo for a man, or what?) for a recommendation. I have never had coffee this good. Evah. So I sent Bill at Moody's an email practically begging him to ship me some.

He did. Bill's real sweet. Five bags later (and like $6 shipping, not too sure how Bill pulled off that one), I am a very happy girl. Seriously. Either go here or buy a bag and call for an order to be shipped tell ol' Bill that Faith from Sacramento is plugging him like crazy.

An Easy Dinner for One - Chicken Mushroom Quesadillas

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Except that I probably ate two servings, which is really what I tend to do normally, anyway. I figure I work it off by living a rather active social life AND walking up the one flight of stairs at work instead of riding the elevator. Right?

These quesadillas are pretty scrumptious and easy. I was lucky enough to follow it up with a couple of hours of wine drinking with neighbors under the Sacramento 70-degree night sky.

Chicken Mushroom Quesadillas
courtesy of Ellie Krieger

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
8 ounces white button mushrooms, (about 3 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked chopped skinless, boneless chicken breast (1 breast half)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups baby spinach leaves, sliced into ribbons
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
4 (10-inch) whole-grain flour tortillas
1 cup shredded Mexican
cheese mix or Cheddar
1/2 cup salsa
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

Heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until the mushroom water is evaporated and they begin to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add chicken, cumin, chili powder and oregano and stir until all spices are incorporated.

Add spinach, salt and pepper and cook until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.
Lay 1 tortilla on a flat work surface and sprinkle with 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Spoon 1/2 chicken and vegetable mixture on top of cheese, then top with an additional 1/4 cup cheese. Top with another flour tortilla.

Heat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray over medium heat. Carefully place 1 quesadilla in pan and cook 3 minutes. Using a large spatula, gently flip quesadilla and cook an additional 3 minutes until lightly browned and cheese is melted. Repeat with second quesadilla. Slice each quesadilla into quarters. Place 2 quarters on a plate with 1 tablespoon sour cream and 2 tablespoons salsa.

Good Friends + Pasta + Wine = Happiness.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I swear, I have some of the greatest friends in the world. How it happened is beyond me. Erin is a girl I met in college. We couldn't be more different. She's a smart, cute lil rocker chick who is currently sporting some awesome purple streaks in her raven-black hair, tattooed feet and a band boyfriend. I was a preppy, khaki-wearing sorority Republican girl, naive to a fault. Six years later, Erin made me this incredibly yummy meal and we reminisced over a lovely V. Sattui merlot that resulted in a super-sweet headache for both parties the following day.

This isn't your every day pasta cheese bake. Snippets of lemon and spinach come through, and the dish is perfected with sliced almonds. Yum!

Baked Pasta Casserole
courtesy of 101 Cookbooks

Extra virgin olive oil
3/4 lb whole wheat pasta shells
sea salt
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
4 cups well-chopped spinach
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
Zest of 2 lemons
8 oz mozzarella

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a large casserole dish. Cook pasta, toss with olive oil.

In the meantime, heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high. Saute the onions with a couple pinches of salt for a few minutes (or if you want a bit more depth of flavor until caramelized). Stir in garlic. Stir in spinach. Cook for just about 20 seconds, until the spinach collapses a bit. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of the almonds and 1/2 of the zest. Add to pasta and stir and stir - mixing extremely well, a minute or so.

Now sprinkle the bottom of baking dish with the rest of the zest. Add a layer of the pasta to the bottom of the baking pan, now sprinkle with some of the cheese, add more pasta, then more cheese. Finish with a layer of cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until cheese on top is bubbly and melty. Serve sprinkled with the remaining almonds.

Nothing Like a Lil' Vacation...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ok. So, a) we all need a little hiatus. I took one. Now I'm back. And, b) go here to fight some hunger. Because just because you get to eat three square meals a day and dream up delectable recipes to whip around in your kitchen, many people try to figure out how they're going to scrounge up one measly piece of nutrition to take care of their basic need of hunger.

Oh, lastly? Some food blogger just named her food blog, "I Pray to Feta." That's, sorta uncanny. Anyway. Stay tuned for recipes and the random ramblings from I Pray to GOUDA. Gouda. Not Feta.

Food Post from Paris: Potato Gnocchi with Thyme Vinaigrette and Lemon Cashew Cream Sauce

Monday, February 2, 2009

Paris is such a Faith city. Bustling streets, apartment buildings from the 1500s, a cozy cafe on every corner and people who are more interested in enjoying each hour of every day rather than rushing through it. I came to Paris not for the Tour de Eiffel, the Louvre or Versaille, but to experience the culture of a people who sit and enjoy an espresso or fromage with friends without worrying about tight schedules or how much money they put in the meter. And I've been able to get my full experience in this amazing French city.

So here I sit in my apartment in Les Halles, doing one of my fave things - food blogging!

This is a recipe my friend, Jennifer and I made on New Year's Eve. Jennifer is vegan, and I must say that the sound of this recipe sent a tiny shiver down my spine when I first heard of it. Amazingly, however, this gnocchi dish is phenomenal. It's a little bit of work, but fun to do and even more fun to eat.

Potato Gnocchi with Thyme Vinaigrette and Lemon Cashew Cream Sauce
Serves 2-3

For Gnocchi:

2 Russet Potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 Scant Cup Bread Flour (No salt!)

For Thyme Vinaigrette

2 Tbs Fresh Thyme, leaves only
1-2 Pinches Salt, to taste
4 Tbs Olive Oil
1 tsp White Wine Vinegar

For Lemon Cashew Cream

1 Cup Water
1 1/4 Cups Roasted, Salted Cashews (or raw)
Zest of 1 Lemon
1/2-1 tsp Lemon Juice

For the specific cooking directions, head on over to Vegan YumYum...

Updates Soon!

Friday, January 30, 2009

I just figured out how to plug my camera's memory card into my computer rather than waiting to buy a new little cord thingie. Insert eyeroll here. Meanwhile, I'm blogging from beeeautiful Paris, France and will be back online soon with yummy recipes! Au revoir!

Meanwhile...a $2.00 Treat for Ya!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Starbucks is having a "tea" event from January 6-18. They've released new tea drinks with weird names such as "London Fog" and "Vanilla Rooibos." Not all that genius, if you ask me (why can't they just stick to coffee, for crying out loud?), but with this coupon, you can try one of these anomalies for two bucks.

What's to lose?

Coming Back Soon!

I have some great recipes to share (a vegan gnocchi and a few fabulous French recipes from Sacramento's very own William Rolle), but I've misplaced the little thingamabobber that allows me to hook my camera up to the laptop. Recipes and pics coming soon!

Here's to 2009!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!
Here is to a year of good food, good friends, good things and good times.