“X” is for (e)Xciting Giveaway!!

Yes, I realize misspelling “exciting” just to get away with an X-themed post is cheating, but it’s been a long day and I don’t know enough about xanthan gum for a proper X-themed post. Besides, giveaways are more fun!

My day has been incredibly relaxing. I did an hour of yoga on my living room floor and then singed some of my hair off when I got too close to the simmering pot of cranberry sauce on the stove (my hair fell onto the burner!). After dinner Tim and I played Scrabble (I won) and pretty soon we are making steamy mugs of hot chocolate! We need to save our energy for tomorrow’s annual Fur Free Friday march in downtown Portland. It’s a peaceful march protesting the sale of fur. This will be our third year attending and I love being amidst compassionate folks speaking out for the animals. If there is a Fur Free Friday march happening in your town, I encourage you to go.

Now for the (e)xciting giveaway!!! Over the summer I opened an Etsy shop, Chirp Cards, where I sell handmade cards. With the holiday season in full swing, I thought it might be nice to host a little giveaway featuring cards from my shop. If you’d like to be entered in the contest, visit my shop and leave a comment here telling me which two cards you would like to win. I will randomly choose a winner on Monday, November 29th. The winner will receive the two cards they chose plus an extra surprise. This contest is open to everybody – so there’s no reason not to enter, right?

Good luck :)

 

“W” is for Warming Foods

Hello everybody! It’s been in the mid-20′s here in Portland and I’m doing everything I can to keep warm. Unfortunately that means wearing my winter hat indoors and adding a sleeping bag to the ever-growing layers of blankets on my bed. I don’t mind the cold too much, I just wish it would snow if the temperature drops below freezing! Snow in Portland is a rare and extremely hilarious occurrence.

Onto the subject of today’s post: warming foods. There are plenty of effective ways to keep cozy during the winter months. Lots of clothing layers and soup are my two favorite options. Here is a list of nurturing, whole foods that have the added benefit of warming the body*.

1. Black tea – Not only does black tea help prevent heart disease, strengthen the immune system, aid in digestion, and reduce cavities, but it is also contains vitamin C, magnesium, and the B vitamin folacin. While green tea helps cool the body, black tea warms the body. And who doesn’t enjoy a nice mug of tea?

2. Oats – The high fat (unsaturated) content in oats provides warmth and stamina to the body. Oats are great for reducing cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar, and soothing the nervous and digestive systems. They are high in protein.

3. Vinegar – Vinegar is a miracle liquid! People primarily use vinegar for seasoning foods and cleaning their homes. It is also used for medicinal purposes, as a beauty aid, and as an antibiotic. Vinegar energizes the stomach and liver while also detoxifying and warming the body. It is supposedly wonderful for helping reduce mental depression too.

4. Ginger – I love ginger. I steep it in tea, add it to rice dishes, bake with it, and juice it. Ginger aids in digestion, increases circulation, treats motion sickness, and is anti-inflammatory. It also eases congestion and headaches. Ginger’s peppery taste warms the body.

5. Wild Rice – Wild rice isn’t a member of the rice family but is is a grain-producing grass. It strengthens the kidneys and is warming and drying. Wild rice has higher levels of protein, minerals, and B vitamins than wheat, oats, or barley.

6. Garlic – We all know the wondrous benefits of garlic, right? It is warming, antibacterial, and anticarcinogenic. Garlic also stimulates metabolism, stabilizes blood sugar levels, and tonifies the spleen, kidneys, and lungs.  It is also great for the intestines and can even eliminate toxins such as snake venom (!!) from the body.

A few other warming foods include: chiles, coconut, beans, papaya, cherries, and nuts. If you incorporate a bunch of these amazing whole foods into your daily meal plan this winter, you will be sittin’ cozy!

I’d love to see a recipe that includes all (or a good percentage anyways) of the above-mentioned ingredients. Maybe we should challenge ourselves to create the ultimate warming recipe? If you create a recipe, let me know! Perhaps there should be a prize?

*The information in this post was obtained through a book called “The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia” by Rebecca Wood.

“V” is for Vegan Recipes I Love

Posting every day this month has been quite a challenge! I have some fun ideas for when I reach the end of the alphabet though, so it’s worth the effort. Don’t fall off the Vegan MoFo tracks just yet because I promise you a bit of adventure in the last few days!!

Today’s post was going to be Vidalia Onion Bread and then I got lazy and decided to do Vanilla Chocolate Swirl Cookies. I made the cookies, but changed my mind one more time. I’ve been suffering from laziness I suppose… I am settling for sharing some of my favorite vegan recipes instead. This is a pictorial post with links.

In no particular order, here we go!

Cranberry Chili from the massive 500 Vegan Recipes. I had the ultimate pleasure of being a recipe tester for two (Celine and Joni) of the most talented vegan women I know. This chili recipe is ace. Pair it with a side of corn bread (another recipe from the book!) and you have a complete meal.

Apricot Scones from Go Dairy Free. I wrote a review of this book on my blog last year if you’d like to read it. These scones are the perfect accompaniment to a steaming cup of tea. They are subtly sweet with a soft crumb. I have fond memories of baking scones while backpacking in New Zealand with Tim. We carried an Outback Oven and that made crafting pizza, brownies, and scones on the trail incredibly easy. We met three brothers who were hiking the same trail as us and we made a big batch of scones for everybody. The brothers were elated! They kept shouting “Scones!” in their lovely New Zealand accents. Such good memories…

Seitan Gyros from Vegan Express. Speedy meals are important when you’ve had a rough day. I especially enjoy these gyros in the summertime, but honestly, they are great year-round. If you have some homemade pita bread and tzatziki sauce, you’re all set!

Maple-Mustard-Chili Tofu from the Swell cookzine. Normally, I tend to avoid eating soy products in abundance, but this recipe pleases me so much. It’s simple. I love eating it with greens and grains for a filling, colorful meal. Besides, we all need savory slabs of tasty tofu now and again, right?!

Curried Pumpkin Soup with White Wine and Seitan from Seitan is My Motor. I am pretty crazy about this smoky, warming, flavorful soup. It’s hearty so make a big batch on a cold night and get cozy watching movies, slurping soup, and chatting with a loved one.

Chocolate Tahini Tea Cake another recipe from 500 Vegan Recipes. It’s no secret that I love tahini given the name of my blog! I eat tahini straight from the jar. Putting a healthy dose of tahini in baked goods is brilliant and delicious.

Twisted Snicksters. You already know that I love tahini, pizza, noodles, and brownies. But, did you know that I also love cookies? Well I do! This snickerdoodle recipe is one of my own (adapted from a combination of favorite snick recipes). Cookie baking season is upon us and these are prefect for snarfing down while you try to avoid the consumer-driven chaos of the holidays. Hide in the closet with a batch and wait out the nonsense.

I have loads more recipes I want to share, but my computer is acting shifty and slow. This is a good start though :)

What are some of your favorite vegan recipes?

 

 

“U” is for Upside-Down Banana Nut Cake Mishap(s)

Today was a mess of nonsense in my kitchen. First, I made a batch of Roasted Beet Brownies and forgot some essential ingredients. I feared failure in their future so I stirred the abandoned ingredients into the batter a few minutes after they had been in the oven. Quick save (or so I thought)! They came out not quite right… I have no photos because they are mighty ugly.

Second, I decided to focus today’s post on upside-down cake. Mistake? Maybe. You see, I had both of these marvelous-seeming ideas mixing in bowls at the same time. All the while, I was on the phone sorting out a bill with my doctor’s office. Plus, Tim was grumbling about needing lunch. I am usually an expert in multi-tasking – just not today, a Monday of all days. Pfffffftttt.

This poor upside-down cake had some oven adventures it would probably like to forget. When I first removed it from the oven it was gorgeous! It came right out of the pan while Tim and I marveled at the aroma and beauty. And then, while I was photographing it, I realized that it was sinking in the center. I decided to cut a slice for sampling. Batter oozed out from the center. It was under-baked. I put it back in the oven to finish baking. Let’s just say it is no longer a pretty cake. It tastes nice, but the recipe needs a bit of work before I can share it with you. Stay tuned!

Upside-Down Banana Nut Cake (pre-sinkage)

And now, the winners of the So Delicious coupon giveaway! Commenters #6 (Ashley), #9 (Edhie), #10 (Jodie), and #25 (Vic) – Congratulations!!! I will send each of you an e-mail so we can arrange mailing of your prize! Yay! [Edhie, please contact me via my About Me page, your e-mail address is not working. Thanks!]

“T” is for Thyme Bread

I learned to bake bread as a teenager when I worked at a small local bakery in Pennsylvania. That job opened my eyes to the world of baking: not only bread, but cookies, pies, cakes, brownies, and other yummy treats too. My love of baking grows every year as I experiment with new recipes and expand my favorites list.

This recipe for Thyme Bread was printed in the food section of my newspaper. I tucked it away in my recipe box with the intent of making it soon. Well, I forgot about the recipe until today, a good four years later! Ooooooops! Maybe that saying “The best things come to those who wait” applies here, because this bread is incredible!!! The recipe yields four small flatbreads and two have already disappeared.

This flatbread is commonly eaten in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. I can see it pairing nicely with hummus, but it is traditionally eaten for breakfast with yogurt, tomatoes, and cucumbers. I snacked on mine plain, and then snacked on another… Part of the topping includes za’atar, a mixture of dried thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds. If you’ve never had za’atar, you are in for a treat! You can find za’atar at specialty stores and Middle Eastern markets. Or, you can order some online.

Thyme Bread

Adapted from “Mediterranean Street Food” by Anissa Helou

Ingredients for the dough:

1/4 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon dry sweetener (unrefined sugar works well)
1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading and rolling
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Ingredients for the topping:

2 heaping Tablespoons za’atar
generous 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

1. Whisk yeast and sugar into water and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes.
2. Combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the oil. Using your fingers, incorporate the oil into the flour.
3. Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and stir (or use your hand like I did) until the mixture comes together. Slowly add in another 1/4 cup of water. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes. Cover with an inverted bowl and let rest for 15 minutes.
4. Knead the dough, using as little flour as possible, until smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball, cover, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size.
5. Meanwhile, whisk together za’atar and olive oil in a small bowl. Set aside.
6. Once your dough has risen, divide it equally into four pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.
7. Heat heavy-bottomed skillet (cast iron works well, or use a non-stick pan) over medium heat. Preheat your oven broiler as well.
8. Using a rolling pin, flatten each ball into a disk about 1/8″ thick (mine were about 7″ in diameter). Dimple the top of the disk with your fingertips (to prevent topping from running off during cooking). Transfer disks, one at a time, to your heated skillet and spread with a 1/4 of the topping mixture. Cook until the bottom is crisp and golden, about 3 minutes. DO NOT FLIP!!!
9. Brown the surface under the broiler for about a minute (watch closely since oven broilers vary greatly).
10. Transfer to a cooling rack and repeat with remaining disks.
11. Serve hot or warm, with or without toppings/dips.