January 28, 2007

Corn Muffins and Stormy Black Bean Soup

Early last week I felt the urge to bake, but seeing as how it's still Junk-Free January for me, I didn't want to make sweets at all. So I turned to a perrenial favorite of mine: cornbread. I wanted to try out my mini-muffin pan, so I made 24 mini-muffins and then 5 regular-sized ones. I have to say, the mini ones are cute - but the big ones taste better. They have a better fluffy interior to crispy exterior ratio.

And aren't those square baking cups adorable? I got them to hold food in my bento, but I haven't had occasion to use them for that purpose yet. They make excellent square muffins, though. I love them.

And of course you can't have corn muffins without soup or stew, so I made Sunsan V's Stormy Black Bean Soup. I followed the recipe exactly, except that I only used 3 cups of broth and I pureed a few cups of the soup to get a thicker texture. I just prefer it that way. It's a really excellent soup with quite a bit of a kick from the chipotle and spices. I'll definitely make it again.

Today I'm attempting seitan for the second time ever. Fingers crossed.

January 27, 2007

First Bento Lunch Ever!

One Wednesday I finally got to take my bento to school. I packed Susan V's shiny happy hummus, a wheat tortila (alas, I was pita-less), a fuji apple, and orange segments. It all fit, and it kept me nice and full - so there you go. The box may be tiny, but if you work it right you can fit enough food inside. I took it on Thursday and Friday as well, but I didn't take pictures. Friday was a repeat of this box, except with mini wheat pitas instead of a tortilla and a soy yogurt on the side, and Thursday was a mini tempeh sandwich and fruit.

I love my bento. It makes me happy.

January 22, 2007

Lightlife Reviews, Part II: Smart Strips Chik'n Strips

Another one of the goodies in my Lightlife box were these Smart Strips. Now, I love these things. They were the first mock-meat I ever tried after going vegetarian lo those 10+ years ago. I loved them then and I love them now. They're the perfect sort of chewy and a bit juicy, but not in a gross way at all. The flavor is salty and savory and just... well, really damn good. But it's also subtle enough that you can use these in just about any type of dish.

Plus they pack a nice hit of protein and fiber - 14g and 4g, respectively - with no fat and just 80 calories. They work out to 1 WW point per serving.

My final rating for these is a 10/10, plus two thumbs up. I love them.

The chick'n strips adding their awesomeness to my stir-fry with peanut sauce.

The representative from Lightlife also sent along a link for $1 off coupons - check it out here if you're interested.

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January 21, 2007

Clover Bento

My bento came! Isn't it adorable? I love it so much. It is, however, much smaller than I thought it would be. My cell phone is there for comparison. I question whether or not I'll be able to fit enough food in it. I may have to look into a bigger box. I guess bentos in general are pretty small, though. Hmm. Regardless, I love it. The little bee is my favorite part.

Another shot so you can see the two layers. And also some bonus cat feet in the background.

January 14, 2007

bento madness

Once again proving that Jess and I are two halves of the same person, I have become obsessed with bento boxes. I need one. Possibly more than one. But there are so many to choose from and I'm so very indecisive. What I'd really like is to see them in person. I don't know if there's an asian store around here that would carry them. Hmm. I must go hunting.

This is going to turn into a whole big thing, with the boxes and the adorable accessories... I can just tell. I don't know if that's a good thing or not.


January 07, 2007

LightLife Reviews, Part I: Smart Tortilla Wrap

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently received a box full of Lightlife products in the mail for testing/reviewing purposes. Yesterday I wanted a fast lunch, so I chose this tortilla wrap. This product comes in three varieties: Mexican Style, Breakfast Scramble, and Ranchero, which is the one I received. There is also a Smart Pretzel Dog that shares the same type of packaging.

Of the three wraps, the Ranchero is the one I'd be most likely to pick up for myself. The description on the package reads: "Chick'n-style veggie strips, brown rice, and vegetables in a spicy cilantro sauce." The package also informs me that the tortilla wrap is over 50% organic, which isn't something I usually worry about, but it's nice to know anyway.

Nutritionally, this thing has 300 calories, 6g fat (1g sat fat), 370mg sodium, 48g carbs, 7g fiber, 6g sugar, and 15g protein. It also has 50% of the RDA of vitamin C, 10% calcium, and 30% iron. It clocks in at 6 WW points.

And now to the real question - how does it taste? Pretty good, I'd say. I'm a fan of Lightlife's chick'n strips, so of course I enjoyed that part, and the cilantro sauce is nice - not as strong as I expected, either. There's a good bit of tomato flavor as well, and some pleasant smokiness. I didn't really notice the brown rice, but everything inside is sort of congealed together (as these things tend to be), so it likely just blended with the sauce and thickened it up a bit.

It seemed small when I first looked at it, but I ate it with some baby carrots and it filled me up pretty well. I still think that there's an awful lot of tortilla compared to the amount of filling, though.

My only real complaint is that the baking time given on the wrapper was way off for me. I wrapped it in foil and put it in the toaster oven at 350, just like the package says to, and 25 minutes later (20-25 minutes was the given span) it was still cold inside. I stuck it in the microwave (sans foil, of course) for 2 minutes and then put it back in the toaster oven for 5 minutes to crisp up the tortilla a bit, and then it was fine. I'm not sure what went wrong with the initial baking, but it was rather annoying.

Overall, I'd give it a 7/10. It was good and it filled me up, but the heating instructions didn't work out for me and I thought they could have been a bit more generous with the filling.

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January 05, 2007

Xmas Goodies

Wow, you know, I intended to post a lot more over christmas break, but I forgot how busy things can get during that time. Plus I've sort of lost all will to cook new and interesting things - hopefully I'll get over that at some point. For now I have some pretty bad pictures (stupid kitchen light) of the goodies I made for christmas.

Orange-Chocolate-Hazelnut Biscotti. Recipe is from the fantastic Bittersweet. She originally sent me this stuff when we did a little treat-swap last year, and it is seriously just the best thing ever. Everyone who got some loved it. Even my dad, who normally looks at anything vegan like it's made of twigs and elephant dung.

Soft cutout sugar cookies with simple confectioner's sugar frosting. I used this recipe, which has become my gold standard for this type of cookie. I used snowman and tree cookie cutters, but I didn't do any fancy frosting jobs. Too much work. Too many little bowls to clean.

These sugar-coated peanuts are my boyfriend's dad's specialty. It's a family recipe that I just now got ahold of. They're addictive and awesome, and so easy to make. This is another one that everyone loves. Even my dad. He actually asked me to make him some more. I thought my head was going to spin around and explode.

And finally, chocolate and peanut butter fudge. Two kinds, both from La Dolve Vegan. I used a candy thermometer and everything, and it was pretty simple to make. My first batch of PB fudge got heated up too much because I am very, very smart and was looking at the celcius temperature scale instead of farenheit. I kept wondering why on earth my boiling sugar was still at only 120-some degrees, and then suddenly it started to burn a little bit. It was okay, though. I just called it a test batch and Adam and I ate it all. It was still good.

I also made chocolate chip cookies from Vive le Vegan, but I didn't get a picture of those.

Today I got a package of Lightlife products in the mail, because a representative from the company contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in testing out and reviewing some products. Of course I said yes. So in the next few weeks I image I'll be posting a lot of that stuff.

Edit: Here's the recipe for the sugar-coated peanuts:

Sugar Peanuts

2 c raw, red-skinned peanuts - the skins MUST be on!
1 c sugar
1/2 c water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine sugar and water in a pot, and bring to a low boil. Stir in peanuts. Stir constantly, but gently, so as not to loosen then peanut skins too much, until there is no liquid left and the peanuts are coated in a thick sugar paste. Spread the coated peanuts out in a single layer on a well-oiled or parchment-covered cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes; you may want to check them at 25 to be sure they aren't burning.

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