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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

BEST Cookies EVER!

The oil free vegan food plan has been pretty easy so far- although, when I was frying up some sweet Italian sausage for Kevin's pizza tonight I did think about sneaking some greasy, delicious meat...
Anyhow, I resisted.

I did have a craving for something I decided to make a cookie recipe from the Engine 2 Diet called, Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies." Holy Smoke!!! They are GREAT!!

This recipe made 28 cookies.

I always have frozen ripe bananas in the freezer...I usually buy too many and then, before they get too ripe, I toss them in the freezer to use in banana bread, or smoothies. This recipe called for 3 ripe bananas...but I tossed three frozen ones into the microwave for 1 minute; peeled them and tossed them into a blender.

Here's the original recipe...Engine 2 Cookies

I followed it exactly.

We have 20 more to eat this week....I'm storing them in a ziplock freezer bag. We'll see how long they last! Normally, Kevin and I don't eat very many sweets...but we might make an exception with these cookies!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Vegan Tacos

I decided that we (I) needed to have tacos for dinner tonight.
I thought that I could have some bean tacos and Kevin could have turkey tacos...I used half the turkey meat last night to make a couple of turkey burgers for Kevin (one for dinner, one to freeze) and saved the rest for turkey tacos tonight. I was thinking ahead....

I used this GREAT taco seasoning mix to season the meat for Kevin...
Mix together:
1 tsp. each of garlic powder, smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, chili powder, onion powder, kosher salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper.
Use 1 tablespoon per lb. of meat (ground chicken, turkey or beef)
cook the meat and spices until the meat is cooked through, Add 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 tsp of cornstarch and blend well. Cook until thick and creamy, whisking frequently.
Keep the remainder of the spice blend in a jar and use within 6 months.

I also made homemade pinto beans as the 'meat' of my taco...this recipe is fantastic!

2 cups of rinsed dried pinto beans
8 cups of water
2 tablespoons of cumin
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 small onion, grated
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes

Mix everything together in a crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours without peeking!
The beans will be creamy and delicious!

Some brown rice, corn with green peppers and red peppers, chopped lettuce, chopped tomato and sliced olives and a little Tapatio and you have a delicious dinner!

 Oh, and some delicious Icky IPA! Um, I think I need a refill....

Monday, March 17, 2014

The BEST Corned Beef EVER!

Yes, I decided to eat meat for St. Patrick's Day.

But, since I have not given up my Lenten 'fast' on the first two Sundays in Lent, I think I'm pretty much's a discipline, not a sin! I'll be back on the fat-free vegan wagon tomorrow!

I can't help myself- it's all about corned beef and cabbage today:) And, I am Irish by birth and marriage.

I have made corned beef brisket for many, many years, and it's usually pretty good...but this year, I found a recipe that is the best I've ever eaten. Kevin even agreed that it was fantastic. Here's a great photo of this amazing accomplishment...

Oh, wait- that's the bottle of Irish Whiskey we killed tonight....oops.

This is the paragon of amazingly good Corned Beef with Horseradish and Mustard Crust...

And here's how I did it:

I stole MauiGirl's recipe!  Here is her mauigirl original recipe for braised corned beef
but I did make a few delicious changes...

1 3.5-5 lb. flat cut corned beef
1 bottle of dark beer
1 shot of Irish whiskey
1 onion, peeled and chopped
6 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of Kitchen Bouquet
1 teaspoon of canola oil
2 tablespoons of creamed horseradish
2 tablespoons of dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of panko breadcrumbs

Soak the brisket in a very large bowl of water overnight. Drain the brisekt, rinse, and pat dry. Brush the Kitchen Boquet all over the brisket. Cut the onion into large chunks and put in the bottom of a pan just large enough for the brisket and is oven safe.
Sear the brisket smeared with the Kitchen Boquet on all sides in the 1 tablespoon of oil, about 4 minutes on each side.
Place the brisket on top of the onions and top with the garlic cloves.
Pour the beer and whiskey into the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan with 3 layers of tightly sealed aluminum foil and place in a pre-heated 275 degree oven.
Cook for 4-5 hours without peeking! The meat should be at least at 185 degrees.
Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.
Mix the horseradish and mustard together and smear on top of the cooled brisket. Top with the panko.
Place the brisket into the broiler for 5 minutes until the panko is browned.
Remove from the oven, cool for 5 minutes, and slice across the grain of the meat.
You can serve this with boiled or fried cabbage, mashed, boiled or baked potatoes or any other vegetable you like. The meat will be freakin' incredible!

Oh, and serve with beer...and more whiskey. 
Happy St. Patrick's Day! 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lovely Sunny Sunday!

Today has been a lazy day...and the weather has been just beautiful!

I made Huevos Rancheros for Kevin for a late brunch today...and I had fat-free vegan NO-Huevos Rancheros!

I baked a couple of corn tortillas at 400 degrees in the oven until they were crisp.
Then, I dry-sauteed 1/2 seeded jalapeno, 1/2 diced onion and 1 large diced clove of garlic in a non stick pan. I added some ancho chili powder, cumin and garlic powder and let it toast on the veggies for a minute or two, until it was fragrant. Then, I added 1 small diced tomato and 1 can of rinsed fat-free black beans and 1/2 cup of vegetable stock. I let the beans simmer until they absorbed the liquid and softened up a bit.

I put the tortilla on the plate and topped it with a beans...added some salsa, shredded lettuce and green onions, and topped it with guacamole.

Kevin had an over-easy fried egg on top of the beans and tortilla, with melted cheese, salsa, green onion and guacamole! It was delicious!

It's been so warm today that Kevin had to water the trees, plants and grass. I decided to finish some of the pruning and weeding that needed to be done. Bridget 'helped' me a bit....

...right after she played with her buddy next door, a darling little Yorkie boy named Butch! Butch is only 5 years old and a little bigger than Bridget, but he has the exact same coloring! They play like two puppies together! I'll try to get a picture next time they have a 'play date' because they are so adorable!
Isn't her little St. Patrick's Day bow cute?

Here are some great photos of our plants starting to flower in the yard...

We aren't sure what kind of tree this is- it's non-fruiting and has green leaves in the fall, but the pink flowers are gorgeous against the backdrop of the huge pine tree. Just ignore the pile of wood, charcoal BBQ and dog fences we have stored there...ha ha

The tiny yellow flowers on this bush are just beautiful and bright!

The parsley and thyme are doing fantastic in the backyard...

...and the squash that I planted from seed on March 1st is going gangbusters! I might have to get them in the ground sooner than I thought! We were thinking we would put them outside at the end of April, but looks like they might be going out even sooner! They are enormous!

At least the tomatoes, swiss chard and kale are behaving. We have the first true leaves on the tomatoes, so I'll be staking them soon.

One last picture of the cutest 11 year old Yorkie in the world, fighting the 5 mph breeze...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Easy and Delicious Workday Dinner

I know, it's Saturday, but for me, it's a workday!
Kevin decided to go skiing while I was working...the rat! He got in 14,000 vertical feet at Heavenly Mountain Resort before lunch! I know, I usually take my sweet time while skiing and need a break now and then...but I usually manage to accumulate a lot of vertical feet...but this was ridiculous! Sigh...I guess he can ski without me now and then...
Today was a beautiful, sunny and warm day- perfect for a BBQ~ Oh, wait...I'm doing fat free vegan and there is not much I can do with the BBQ...or IS there...
So when I got home today I was not in the mood to be overly creative with the fat free vegan thing, so I went for simple and obvious...
BBQ marinated Portabello Mushroom and yellow squash with brown rice and a salad! 
I marinated the mushroom and squash in a little lemon juice with some homemade Montreal Steak Seasoning and I used this FABULOUS vegan vinaigrette dressing for the salad!

I know, you LOVE my Cowboy Barbed Wire plates, right??

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ssamjang...Where Has This Been My Entire Life??

Kevin and I were lounging on the couch on Monday evening, after a long day of skiing, watching several episodes of, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives". I usually get some great recipe ideas from the show! It's a standard daily DVR special!

One episode showed Guy Fieri visiting a place...somewhere. OK, I don't remember. What I did remember was the delicious sounding concoction that a chef made to marinate a duck breast. ( I think...again, I wasn't paying real close attention or I'd give credit where credit is due)

I did pay attention when he called the marinade, "Ssamjang."

So, I googled it and decided to make some. It sounded like something we would both like- spicy, flavorful and a little sweet.

OMG. Where has this been all of my life?

To all of my friends who are Korean- how could you keep this a secret? This is incredible! The explosion of flavor and heat and sweet is amazing!

Here's the recipe I used:

2 teaspoons of sambal olek (chili paste)
2 teaspoons of white miso (soybean paste)
1 whole jalapeno, chopped
1 cayenne chili, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon of blue agave syrup
2 teaspoons of rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of black pepper

I blended everything in the food processor, adding a little bit of water to thin it out somewhat. I also didn't have a fresh cayenne chili, so I used a dried whole cayenne chili from last summer's garden instead. This made a little more than a cup of sauce. You can store it in the fridge....not sure how long this will last, but it's so yummy that I can see this going in a lot of recipes this week...

It's going on the veggie burger for tonight's dinner! YUM!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Vegan Shepherd's Pie

Last night, I decided to try and turn one of our favorite dinners into a "Fat Free Vegan" dinner!

Kevin and I love Shepherd's Pie on a chilly afternoon...and yesterday it was chilly! It turned out rather good; so I thought I'd share the recipe and technique.

I started by chopping vegetables: 1 cup each of carrots, celery, mushrooms, and pearl onions. I also chopped up 4 cloves of garlic, and defrosted 1/2 cup of petit peas and corn.

I also scrubbed 7 Yukon Gold potatoes and covered them with water in a pot to boil.

I added the garlic, onions, celery and carrots to a large Le Creuset enamel lined cast iron dutch oven over medium heat. No oil! You have to watch this carefully so it won't burn and stir it occasionally, but you CAN dry-fry vegetables for some color.

After about 5 minutes, I added 1 teaspoon of marjoram and thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

When I could smell the fragrant spices, I added 1 tablespoon of tomato paste. I learned this technique a couple of years ago when making beef stew. It adds color and a depth of flavor you can't get from flour! I stirred it around and let it cook for about 5 minutes.

Then, I added the corn and peas and sprinkled about 3 tablespoons of whole wheat flour over the vegetable mixture.

I let this cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Then, I added 1 cup of vegetable stock (I used Trader Joe's Hearty Vegetable Stock since it has no oil) and 1 cup of red wine and continued to stir as it thickened.

When it had reduced by 1/3, I removed it from the heat. This took about 15 minutes.

Then, I removed the potatoes from the water, peeled them, and mashed them.  I didn't want 'glue' potatoes, so I added some almond milk to help them to fluff up a bit. Kevin and I like the mashed potatoes pretty smooth!

I poured the vegetable mixture into a casserole dish, and covered it with mashed potatoes.

I baked this at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.

It was DELICIOUS!!!!  Kevin grudgingly said it was good....but he suggested that I add some ground beef or ground turkey next time. I guess Fridays are the only day of the week he's willing to not eat meat....Oh well. Maybe he'll see the leftovers on Friday!

Sliced tomatoes and a glass of wine rounded out this dinner! And yes, it bubbled over a bit...unfortunately, I forgot to put a tray under the casserole until it already made a mess in the oven. I guess I'll be cleaning the oven this week....but it was worth it!

This will easily serve four people. Hope you enjoy it!

It's Almost Spring...

In spite of the snow storms the past two weeks, we actually have had some wonderfully warm and 'Spring-ish" weather. The trees in the back yard have beautiful tiny green leaves and huge buds about to burst into color.

We've still been skiing about 3 or 4 times a week...but we are arriving a little earlier in the morning and leaving right after lunch due to slushy, sun-warmed snow. As a matter of fact, last night, Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe received 2" of fresh snow last's about 25 minutes from our door to the lifts!

We decided to stick to our usual seed start schedule that we used in Klamath Falls, Oregon...the climate here in the 'Great Basin' of Carson City/Carson Valley, Nevada is eerily similar to the Klamath Basin...300+ days of sunshine, lots of snow, very short growing season.

We don't have very much room to garden in this rental house, so we had to really cut back on our garden plans! The landscaping is beautiful, but it's all about bushes and trees. I might have to sneak in some flowers after the last frost.

We planted vegetable seeds on March 1....

And I had to transplant the kale, zucchini, yellow straight neck squash, and spaghetti squash on March 4...

And I transplanted the Black Prince, Prudence Purple, Fireworks, Sungold, and German Giant tomatoes on March 6...

Here's the squash plants today, March 11... (and a parsley plant from Trader Joe's...I needed some fresh parsley)

They are huge!!! I keep turning them every day- they are leaning into the sun so dramatically!

I just checked the other peat pots, and it looks like I am going to have to transplant the basil and Bright Lights Swiss Chard in the next day or two.

Kevin is going to build a raised bed planter so I can plant the beets, radishes and green beans right in the soil in April...but that's another project for later!

We are going to put all the other veggies in half-barrels on casters so I can move them into the sun around the yard and out of the crazy wind!  After talking to the Extension Office and Head Master Gardener for the area we decided that half barrels would be best for the plants. We've experienced the 100 MPH gusts when the wind whips down the mountain- and it will make it easier to protect the plants. It also gets extremely hot in the summer 100+ degrees, so we will need to shade the plants so they will continue to flower and ripen during the short season.

It will be a challenge, for sure!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fat Free, Vegan Lent

Lent is really all about Baptism. 

It is the final period of preparation, called,  'Purification and Enlightenment' for those who will join the Church through the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) at the Easter Vigil. 

It is a time that the Baptized are called to prayer, fasting and almsgiving as a form of penance and to journey with those who are preparing for Baptism. After all, Easter is the time that the Baptized renew their Baptismal vows. 

Lent is a time of conversion. When someone 'gives something up' for Lent, in reality, they are 'fasting' from something that causes them to turn away from Christ. 
We aren't supposed to just 'hang in there' until Holy Thursday without candy, or alcohol, or even Candy Crush...we are changing our lives in order to live more fully in Christ. Kinda like what the priest might say when he marks your forehead on Ash Wednesday, "Repent, and believe in the Gospel." Mark 1:15

With that said, I've decided to try and 'fast' from all animal products and oil in Lent this year.  I chose this for two reasons- 1. It's really difficult to do and 2. I want to focus on healthy eating. 
I've had some very interesting food in the past few days. 

I had a lavash pizza with a no-oil pesto base topped with veggies-

mushroom strogranoff-

brown rice and veggie stuffed bell peppers- (Kevin had regular stuffed peppers with cheese on the left)

and baked potato soup. Sorry, no photo! 

I've had almond milk in my coffee, lots of salads, and some amazing waffles (I'll post a photo when I make them again for breakfast). I've had roasted cauliflower, broccoli, onion with hummus gravy, pb&j sandwiches, and I think I might be turning into a carrot or celery stick....but I feel good and not deprived. 
I'll post some of the recipes with photos over the next few weeks so you can get a feel for the wide variety of foods I am eating....and I am actually making Kevin a meat-based meal for dinner (and some breakfasts) almost every day! 

I think the hardest thing has been to not eat cheese. I love cheese. I love Brie, cheddar, gouda, manchego...I swear I keep Trader Joe's in business with all the cheese (and yogurt, sour cream, milk, half and half, cottage cheese) that I usually buy....but I have been very disciplined thus far. 

We will see how it goes! 

Today was a weepy day for me. Kevin and I slept in late, read the paper, and had a late breakfast (rosti for him- hashbrowns fried in butter with ham, bacon and topped with cheddar cheese and green onions- rolled oats for me and fresh strawberries tossed with a little blue agave syrup for both of us) and decided to go to the 11:15AM Mass at St. Teresa's at the other end of town. 

I was surprised when Fr. Chuck did the rite of Sending the Catechumens (those who will be Baptized at Easter Vigil) and Candidates (those who are already Baptized in either another denomination or Catholic who will complete Sacraments of Initiation- Confirmation and Eucharist at Easter Vigil) at the 11:15AM Mass. They are 'sent' to the Bishop of the Diocese, who formally received them this afternoon in Reno as those elected by God to join the Church or complete Sacraments. 

I cried. 

I was so sad that I was not standing with them, presenting them to the Pastor and the Parish, as I have done for the past 7 years at Sacred Heart. I knew I would REALLY miss the RCIA process as director...(Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) but I just started to tear up, and I couldn't stop for a while. 

Our usual parish does not have an RCIA process, but I think I might have to go and have a chat with the Pastor. 

Happy First Sunday of Lent! 

By the way, I LOVE the readings for the first Sunday of Lent- the Temptation of Christ. I remember a long time ago Fr. Alex Kim gave the best homily I have EVER heard about this Gospel. Thanks Fr. Alex!