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Thursday, December 30, 2010

It's Quiz Time

Hello everyone.  I was in a quandary what to write on my blog until I went grocery shopping this morning.  Actually, after I had grocery shopped and returned home.  Remember...  Tiffany and I are still rookies at this vegetarian thang.  

After a pleasant breakfast at Panera Bread this morning on the way to drop Tiffany off at work, we stopped by Publix supermarket.  We needed a few things and I wanted to make some biscuits for those mornings when grab 'n go work best.  We weren't sure which to grab so we decided to buy both Bisquick and Jiffy brands mix.

Can you guess the biggest difference (other than fat and calories) of the following two mixes?

HeartSmart Bisquick versus Jiffy Buttermilk Biscuit Mix

OMG!  The Jiffy mix is a no-go.  It's not vegetarian!!!  It violates the code of our new lifestyle choice.  I could go to vegetarian violator jail.  Or worse, I could be sentenced to a lifetime of artery clogging, hormone laden, steroid infested meat products!

Jiffy Buttermilk Biscuit Mix

It's not Halloween so I suppose I'll just offer up the Jiffy Mix to our carnivorous neighbors.  They were more than happy to assist us in cleaning out our cupboard and freezers of meat products.  Besides, Halloween is Michael Meyer's movie (gawd... I love the cheap pun).

The lesson learned here my fine friends?  Carefully read each and every label until you become familiar with the product.  Just because "it should be vegetarian" doesn't mean that it's necessarily so.  The Bisquick?  It uses canola oil.  

Why couldn't Jiffy had done the same?  Oh well... It's probably a recipe passed from generation to generation.  But, it's no matter.  As a vegetarian consumer, I have choices.  Plenty of choices.  I'll just let my wallet speak for me from now on.  Thanks for a wonderful ride Jiffy but it's over.

Hi-dee hi-dee read-those-labels-carefully-ho my friends. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tomatoes, Tomatoes Everywhere!

Hi everyone.  Here's the scenario... Santa Claus brought Chucky a brand new dehydrator for Christmas, he has the week off from Hell (er... work), and he bought 6-pounds of beautiful vine ripened Campari tomatoes from Eat More Produce for only $5.00.  What's a 2-foot red-headed plastic movie star to do while on vacation?


Dehydrated Spiced Campari Tomatoes

Man, you guys and gals are good!  You are right...  It's time for Chucky to cut the clear packing tape on that dehydrator box and check that puppy out.  After all, it's not like I have to hunt all over for something to cut that plastic tape with is it?


6-pounds Campari Tomatoes

Let's keep the recipe simply this time, okay?  How about:  (a) set the dehydrator to 145-degree, (b) wash 6-pounds of Campari tomatoes, (c) grab a can of non-stick spray, (d) grab a sharp knife, and (e) hunt the cabinets and lazy Susan for miscellaneous spice variations.  After spraying the tray, slice each Campari into six equal slices and lay them out.  When the tray is full, sprinkle each half tray with a different spice variety.  Repeat the process until all Camparis have been sacrificed to the Gods of dehydration.


Miscellaneous Spices


Spices (L to R, bottom then top row):

Spice & Tea Exchange "Earthly Delight"
Penzeys Spices "Fox Point"
Spice & Tea Exchange "Vik's Garlic Fix"
Spice & Tea Exchange "Pirate's Bite"
Penzeys Spices "Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle"
Spice & Tea Exchange "Parfume De Sel"
Penzeys Spices "Arizona Dreaming"
Maine Coast "Kelp with Cayenne"
Braggs "Organic Sprinkle"
Morton "Hot Salt"

What am I going to do with them once they're done?  They make a most excellent healthy snack, they can be re-hydrated and turned into soup, and can be used in just about any manner you can imagine.  But, mostly I'll simply be snacking on them.  Ever eat a dehydrated tomato?  Super sweet.  It's like eating candy only healthy.  The sometimes salt in the herb sprinkle gives it that Yin and Yang component.  Call it a healthy version of a chocolate covered pretzel or potato chip.


Sliced & Spiced Campari Tomatoes Ready-2-Dehydrate

Later I'll be making raw apple cookies, experimenting to create a perfect vegetarian jerky recipe, making raw almond pulp cookies, and dehydrating some celery.  The Seed wants me to make some healthy and raw dingo snacks.  She is getting tired of those store bought biscuits made from who-knows-where using who-knows-what ingredients.

Stay tuned my fine healthy friends.  It's gonna get interesting, messy, or both!

Hi-dee hi-dee thank-you-Santa-for-my-dehydrator-ho my friends!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Belated Season's Greetings!

Hi everyone.  Tiffany & I had been out of town enjoying Christmas with her parents.  They live in a big doll factory near the Atlantic Ocean.  We arrived back in the town that Walt Disney built yesterday.  Traffic was wonderful and the holiday was nice to both Tiffany, The Seed and I.  The Seed loves the holidays, if not just for the 90-minute car (er... sleigh) ride!

History was made this morning for Chucky in Orlando.  This morning was the first time in the year 2010 that Chucky had to wear a jacket.  Tiffany & I enjoyed breakfast at Mimi's this morning and I actually put on a light jacket this morning for my walk from the car into the restaurant!!!  No, the temperature isn't too bad (31-degrees at 8:00 AM) but the wind gust has some "bite" to it.  Luckily, Tiffany & I haven't yet had to turn on the central heat.  We simply use a space heater in the evenings to take the bite out of the air.

Christmas dinner?  Since we elected to try a Quorn roast (man-made vat fungus) at Thanksgiving, we wanted to enjoy something new and different for Christmas dinner.  For our very first vegetarian Christmas dinner we enjoyed a 1-pound Original Field Roast Grain Meat Company "Stuffed Celebration Roast".  

Chucky & Tiffany's Christmas 2010 Entrée

Ingredients:  Filtered water, vital wheat gluten, expeller pressed saflower oil, naturally flavored yeast extract, barley malt, butternut squash, organic wheat flour, granulated garlic, apples, mushrooms, onion powder, garlic, organic wheat flakes, yellow pea flour, lemon juice, red wine, tomato paste, lentils, irish moss (sea vegetable) extract, black pepper, rubbed sage, rosemary, spices, natural liquid smoke and paprika.

Tiffany and I once again agree... A most delicious dining choice!  It's truly hard to explain the taste.  Definitely a wonderful predominant sage taste.  Texture similar to meat loaf.  It looks delicious, cooks in a variety of methods (raw is fine), and slices well.  The slices hold together well and later on Christmas evening I enjoyed a Celebration Roast slice on whole grain bread with mustard sandwich.  Awesome!

The Christmas dinner itself?  We enjoyed a Coppola Crimson Diamond Tempranillo with Celebration Roast, vegan gravy, mashed potato, green bean casserole, dinner rolls and pineapple marshmallow salad.  While enjoying homemade raspberry pie, we savored another bottle of that 2-live-4 Il Duca Imperiale 1917 Stella Rosa.  A most wonderful dinner with a most wonderful family of in-laws.

Chucky's family?  We'll be visiting them later in 2011 for a belated celebration.  We simply don't live close enough to visit everyone so we try to rotate Christmases each year.

Ugh!  That notorious "weigh-in" day will arrives in less than a week.  No ~ Don't expect good numbers because I enjoyed my holiday time.  Too many cookies, snacks, cheeses, crackers, wine, imported beer, liquor, candies, etc. over the holiday time frame.  Now that Christmas is over, it's time to get serious with the calorie counting.

I truly hope that everyone had a simply wonderful and warm Christmas holiday.  May each of you be blessed with a 2011 more rewarding than your minds can fathom!  May you slowly scratch-off each day as a grand prize winning Lottery ticket.  May you be so rich and rewarded that you're obliged to share the happiness and love with everyone that your heart touches.

Hi-dee hi-dee it-is-all-about-family-and-friends-ho my friends!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Quick 'n Easy - Grab 'n Go Lunch

The other morning Tiffany and I looked dumbfounded at one another to synchronously ask, "What are we going to do for lunch today?"  We were readying for work and time is a precious commodity.

Guess what?  Yet one more time that amazing little candle lit itself in that plastic bubble head of mine.  "I've got it! How about an egg scramble for lunch?"  Tiffany warned, "There isn't much time Chucky.  Sure you want to cook some up?"

Grab 'n Go Egg Scramble Wraps

"No, Tiffany.  I'll make us a couple of To Go kits.  We can use the microwave at our offices and make them on the spot."  "Huh?"  I think that I may have baffled Tiffany.  This is something that I simply don't do very often.

Ingredients:  green onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, tomato, potato and egg

Here's the premise of my brilliant ideal.  Take some previously frozen veggies, chop some fresh veggies, crumble some frozen hash potato, add a dash of pepper, and toss in a whole egg.  Place the entire kit and kaboodle into a microwaveable dish.  Place a couple of tortilla shells into a ziploc bag.  When lunch rolls around, crack the egg and microwave the meal.  Spread it on warmed tortillas and add some hot sauce.  It's lunch time!

Ready to go.  Time to put it into the lunch bucket.

Ingredients:
  • Bell pepper, diced
  • Jalapeno pepper, chopped
  • Tomato, diced
  • Hash brown potato patty, crumbled
  • Green onion, diced
  • Egg, whole

Scramble cooked and tortillas heated.

Directions:
  1. Crack egg over ingredients, cover and microwave for approximately 90-seconds on high.  Look for egg just beginning to cook.
  2. Remove from microwave, stir well, cover, and return to microwave.
  3. Cook an additional 90-seconds on high until egg becomes fluffy and done.
  4. Spoon onto tortilla shells.
  5. Spoon Sambal Oelek (Chinese ground pepper sauce), sprinkle hot sauce, or pour on the Sriracha (Thai hot sauce) and enjoy!
Option/Variations:
  • Use broccoli, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, or just about anything convenient in the fridge or freezer.
  • Exclude egg if you want to go vegan.  You could substitute crumbled tofu and nutritional yeast flakes in place of egg.
  • Exclude tortilla shell for scramble bowl to cut down on calories.  
  • Substitute corn tortilla for flour tortilla.

This simple quick-to-prepare lunch has been absolutely wonderful this Christmas holiday week.  Tiffany and I have enjoyed it two days in a row so far.  Absolutely delicious and relatively healthy (but watch the tortilla calories).

Hi-dee hi-dee it-does-not-have-to-be-elaborate-to-be-tasty-ho my friends!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ah, Booger!

Greetings ya'll!  Remember my stating on several occasions "to think outside the culinary box"?

Well, wouldn't you just know it...  I got the opportunity to practice what I preach yesterday.  I was so looking forward to making my absolute favorite vegan dish, Mock Cheese Spread.  But, as Chucky's luck would have it I found myself void of tofu.

"What?"  "You were completely out of tofu???"  "Say it ain't so Chucky."

It was Sunday, later in the afternoon and I just didn't feel like running down to the neighborhood Albertson's or Publix supermarket for a brick of tofu.  Besides, I like my regular frugal tofu shopping spot.  Phuoc Loc Tho Oriental Market has extra firm tofu for only $1.59 per 16-oz block.

What is a 2-foot plastic doll to do?  Yes, I could have simply pulled out my dagger and stabbed a sofa pillow endlessly to vent my frustration.  But Tiffany would have been peeved at me and I just needed "to think outside the culinary box".

Sidebar:  I'm not the least bit scared of Tiffany (when she's not around)!

So, being a recipe gambler I asked myself, "Okay, Charles.  Whaddya gonna do now?  What's available?  What in this kitchen has tofu potential?"

A candle went off in the inside that plastic bubble head of mine and I envisioned garbanzo beans (chickpeas).  I have plenty of cans residing in my cupboard just awaiting to be released from their cans.  I simply substituted one 15-ounce can (drained and rinsed) for the 1/2 pound of tofu called by the recipe.

I found myself having to add 1-1/2 tablespoon filtered water to acquire the desired consistency but it worked.  By no means as good as the original tofu recipe, but quite the doable alternative!  Guesstimating 40-servings per batch, the garbanzo modification added 1-calorie per serving (8-calories versus 7-calories).

Not bad and I was able to enjoy my mock cheese spread with some crackers as I sipped my pineapple-coconut-rooibos tea.

Hi-dee hi-dee practice-what-you-preach-ho my fine readers!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Road to Veggies!

I have been invited by Anne to guest post on her web site Finding Your Zen Pulse.  To read today's blog, please click the link below.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What Has?

Hi folks!  Time for a riddle.  You like riddles don't you?

What has the following features?
  • claws
  • no pores on skin; perspires through tongue to cool body
  • sharp, pointed front teeth to tear flesh
  • no flat back molar teeth to grind food
  • small salivary glands in the mouth (not needed to pre-digest grains and fruits)
  • acid saliva; no enzyme ptyalin to pre-digest grains
  • strong hydrochloric acid in stomach to digest tough animal muscle, bone, etc.
  • intestinal tract only 3 times body length, so rapidly decaying meat can pass out of body quickly
Man... You guys are good!  No tricking my vegetarian friends, indeed.  What Chucky has just described is a carnivore.

     car·ni·vore 
     [kahr-nuh-vawr, -vohr]
     -noun
     1.  an animal that eats flesh.
     2.  a flesh-eating mammal of the order Carnivora, comprising the dogs, cats, bears,
          seals, and weasels.
     3.  an insectivorous plant.

A herbivore?
  • no claws
  • perspires through millions of pores on skin
  • no sharp, pointed front teeth
  • has flat, back molar teeth to grind food
  • well-developed salivary glands, needed to pre-digest grains and fruits
  • alkaline saliva; much ptyalin to pre-digest grains
  • stomach acid 20 times weaker than that of meat-eaters
  • intestinal tract several times body length (plant foods decay slowly so can take their time to pass through the body) 
A human?
  • (see herbivore)

CreditThe Comparative Anatomy of Eating, Milton R. Mills, M.D.

Hi-dee hi-dee see-the-connection-ho my friends?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Alcohol And Calories

Hi everyone!  Sorry it's been a few days but I honestly had nothing to share with you.  It was a busy weekend with company visiting from the east coast of Florida (Melbouring, FL and Palm Gray, FL).  Overall, both Tiffany and I ate a wee bit too much but stuck with our new meatless lifestyle and picked better menu choices.

On Friday afternoon it was salad bar at Ruby Tuesday.  Friday night was grilled veggie sandwich and onion rings at Bahama Breeze.  Saturday I stayed home and ate a veggie patty on whole wheat bread.  

Sunday?  This was different.  "Different?" you ask.  Yes.  Yesterday was the last wine class of 2010 held at Total Wine & More, Orlando.  This month's class was a most delightful "Celebrate with Sparkling and Champagne".  Eight wines to be sampled which included three Grand Cru champagnes!!!

Tiffany and I began our day with Tiffany's Super Blendtec Smoothie.  We met our friends and wine classmates before the class at SEA Thai restaurant.  I had Seaweed Salad as an appetizer and concluded with a most delicious Lad Nah with Tofu.  No sooner had we eaten and paid for our meals than it was time to trek a few blocks down US 50 to the class.

The wine-pairing and palate cleansing hors d'oeuvres included:  French baguette bread slices, roasted peanuts, spicy roasted peanuts, fresh strawberries, assortment of spreadable cream cheeses, chocolate, dark chocolate, whole grain crackers, and fried chicken (off limits for Tiffany and I).  As Jeremy, the day's wine instructor announced, "Everything pairs well with champagne!"


The wines?  (Ratings = Chucky/Tiffany)
  • Vignal Prosecco - 88/87 points
  • Conde de Caralt Brut - 89/90 points
  • Albrecht Reserve Brut - 89/89 points
  • Louis Bouillot Blanc de Noirs - 91/87 points
  • Montaudon Brute - 88/90 points
  • Bernard Bremont Grand Cru Brut - 90/91 points
  • DeMargerie Grand Cru Brut Rose - 89/88 points
  • Mailly Grand Cru Les Echansons 1999 - 91/90 points
Oh?  The calories?  Oh yes, that's the purpose of today's blog isn't it?  How does alcohol figure into my Diet Power tracking program?  The numbers are shown below.

As a general rule of thumb, red wines possess more calories than white wines.  The sweeter the wine, the less the alcohol.  The higher the alcohol, the more the calories.  Since sugars convert to alcohol during the fermentation process, it can be assessed that alcohol contains more calories than sugar!

Generally, the sweeter the wine the more sugar and less alcohol.  This is because not all of the available sugars have been converted into alcohol.  And because the higher alcohol, the higher the calories.  Therefore, it can be deducted that alcohol content is the predominant factor in determining calories.


Oh?  After the class?  Tiffany and I dropped by The Loving Hut vegan restaurant to indulge in their Sunday buffet.  Once again, we were fortunate enough that very few of the available dishes contained fried foods.  And, once again, The Loving Hut outdid themselves!

Tiffany and I shall miss our wine classes until the begin all over again next year.  That's next year as in next month!  :) 

Hi-dee hi-dee cheers-ho my fine friends!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tomato, Onion and Basil Soup

On our first trip to The Loving Hut vegan restaurant, both Tiffany and I were impressed by the simple Tomato & Onion Soup that was included on the buffet.  If my recollection serves me correctly, it appeared to be nothing more than tomatoes, water, and onion.  It was a delectable and light taste that impressed us both.

Tomato, Onion and Basil Soup

Because Eat More Produce still had Campari tomatoes at $0.99 for 2-pounds, I still have many in the fridge begging for a home.  What better than to make a soup?  So, my experiment used the simplicity of The Loving Hut soup as a basis.  A little bit of this and a little bit of that... Voilà!

Ingredients

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • Vegetable soup base or bouillon
  • 1 pound tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced into strips
  • 6 basil leaves, torn
  • 1 inch ginger, finely grated
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • Salt, to taste
  • Tofu, cubed (optional)

Simmering soup

Directions:
  1. Add water and soup base to pot and cook to dissolve.
  2. Reduce to simmer.  Add tomato, onion, basil, ginger, and rice vinegar.  
  3. Continue to simmer until onion slivers are cooked (translucent).
  4. Salt to taste.  Serve.

Nutrition per serving

Nutritional Note:  The numbers above reflect 1/2 package (269 g) cubed tofu per recipe batch and assumed 4 servings per recipe batch.


I just had a bowl for lunch except I used no salt.  Delicious!  Primarily a stewed tomato flavor with compliments of sweet onion, basil and ginger.   A truly healthy soup.  A bowl full of low sodium, low fat and low calorie delight.  Packed full of elements screaming health.  Lycopene and vitamins A and C from the tomatoes.  Flavonoids and vitamin K from basil.  Flavonoids and quercetin from onion.  Gingerols from ginger.  A potpourri of belly-warming healthy substances!  Trust me... There is a smile on Chucky's little plastic face right now.

Hi-dee hi-dee enjoy-and-replicate-ho my friends!


Print Recipe

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

69 Meat-free Days And Counting

Greetings to one and all!  I sat here pondering what to include in my next (this) blog.  I thought to myself, "Why not a general update on life as a vegetarian, day #69?"  An overview if you will.

I haven't any shocking revelations or surprise regrets to share with you.  Instead, it's been an enlightening and enjoyable meat-free path that Tiffany and I have walked.  Filled with warm sunshine, broccoli trees to the left, fields of grain to the right, and a mountain of health visible ahead of us both!  Oh yes... There are animals.  However, they're happy and alive and sharing the planet with us as we trek our journey onward.

The thing that I've missed the most these past sixty-nine days?  I don't honestly think at any particular point since beginning our journey I've missed eating meat.  I certainly have not had any cravings for hamburgers when I drive past a McDonald's or Wendy's restaurant.  Thanksgiving proved much easier than I had imagined.  To be perfectly honest, it ranked up there with one of the nicest Thanksgivings that I have experienced.  Deep inside I possessed a feeling that I was doing something good for my body and I truly felt it!

The thing that I've enjoyed the most?  The most?  Variety.  No doubt about it.  I see dishes, recipes, foods, restaurants, and markets in an entirely different light.  I no longer look at a recipe in a magazine or meat dish served in a restaurant as something I am unable to have.  I think to myself instead, "How can I make that dish without the meat?"

Oh!  Now that I've written a few sentences I can think of one really big problem!  I see so many delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes online, on other blog sites, in magazines, and in cookbooks that I am dying to make to enjoy.  However, Tiffany and I are but two people and I can neither make every single delicious dish/recipe that I see nor could we consume it if I were able to make them all.  I have probably seen more dishes that I hope to make than days available ahead of me.

It's beautiful, actually.  Learning new things every single day.  Simply knowing that I am participating in a healthier lifestyle.  Having a more healthy energy level throughout my day.  Meeting wonderful people.  Exercising an out-of-the-box culinary approach to cooking.  And, generally just being a better me.

Life is good, my friends!  And it's only just beginning.

Hi-dee hi-dee vegetarianism-is-great-ho my friend!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dinner With Friends


Tiffany and I had a most enjoyable dinner last night meeting friends at a local German restaurant, Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe'.  I cannot but admit that our friend's selection of schnitzel looked truly delicious.  However, true to our new lifestyle, we found some delicious alternatives on their menu.



Tiffany and I shared a cheese & fruit plate along with Veggie Spätzle Toss.  I honestly did not know what to expect other than what we ordered was defined as a noodle dish with vegetables.  Neither Tiffany nor I had actually patronized an authentic German gasthaus-styled restaurant before.  We had a most wonderful time and shall soon return!


Traditional German Spätzle noodles

The Veggie Spätzle Toss?  I don't know what to tell you, actually.  I know that I keep reusing the phrase "stupendous" and "outstanding" since becoming vegetarian but there's no better way to describe it.  Perhaps "heavenly"?

As soon as our hostess Amber presented our dish, I knew that my culinary glands would soon be swooned with my first bite!  Spätzle is a German egg noodle dish.  Quite similar to egg noodles that my West Virginian Grandmother used to make, only tiny in size.  The noodles reminded me of gigantic orzo pasta in shape.

The dish was in a traditional peppered butter sauce with tomatoes, mushrooms, and artichoke.  I supposed you could almost describe it a the German version of Pasta Sostanza?


The friends around the table, the establishment's ambiance, the menu selection, the food, the beer, and live music exalted the requirement that Tiffany and I return soon!

The beers?  I had 1/2-liter of Köstritzer Schwarzbier (dark dopplebock)  and 1/2-liter of Weinhenstephaner Korbinian (dark lager) beer on tap.  Tiffany elected to drink two 1/2-liters of slightly less dark Spaten Oktoberfest (amber festbeir).

Hi-dee hi-dee the-vegetarian-food-keeps-getting-better-n-better-ho my friends!


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Guess Where Tiffany & Chucky Ate Lunch Today?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen...  Tiffany and Chucky experienced another wonderful trip to The Loving Hut vegan restaurant today.  Once again, we caught their all-you-can-eat buffet.  Good news?  We caught the buffet.  Bad news?  The Loving Hut, Orlando is moving it back to Sundays beginning at 3:00 PM once again.  Too bad because Saturdays beginning at 11:00 AM was much more convenient to Tiffany and I.

No matter.  They're still there and still open for business.  This was our third trip to The Loving Hut, Orlando and our second time catching the buffet.  Interesting because we quickly noticed two things:  (1) every dish was different than the last time and (2) everything, once again, was absolutely superb and delicious!

Trip #1 to the buffet

Let's discuss today's buffet, okay?

Buffet Dishes:
  • Vegetable Soup - Cubed parsnip, carrot, and tofu in a light broth with cilantro (optional)
  • Tangy cole slaw - Shredded lettuce, shredded cabbage, shredded carrot, rice noodle in a light tangy sauce.
  • Veggie Spring Roll - Lettuce, cucumber, basil, and spinach rolled up in rice paper with brown sauce on the side.
  • Fried Garbanzo Bean Fritters - Garbanzo beans and onion in a batter, then fried.
  • Pita Wraps - 1/2 pita bread, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, TVP, basil and creamy vegenaise sauce.
  • TVP Salad - Brown spiced TVP, sauteed onion, and fresh basil.
  • White Rice
  • Yellow Rice
  • Sweet Potato & White Beans in Tomato Sauce
  • TVP Stir-fry - TVP, cauliflower, green bean and carrot
  • Fried Cubed Tofu in Tomato Sauce
  • Fresh Pineapple Slices
  • Brownies



Trip #2 - Just too darn tasty not to go back!

Neither Tiffany nor I can figure out how they do it.  Tremendous value and everything is delicious 'n fresh.  We also noted something in common with both buffets that we've experienced.  Relatively simple dishes that do not appear to be overly complex.  None of their dishes appear to be overwhelmed with either ingredients or spices.  It's more like a perfect culinary yin yang.

Vegetable Soup - Parsnip, carrot and tofu

Take today's soup, for example.  If I had to guess I'd say that they probably didn't do anything more than dice some parsnips and carrots and steep them slowly in plain water to produce a delectable warm taste to the palate.  The broth had that inherently sweet cooked carrot flavor.  Later on they added cubes of tofu.  On the side was a small bowl of chopped cilantro.

We noticed a relatively good crowd today.  It was quite pleasant actually.  Not overcrowded and a room full of pleasant patrons.  When I asked the manager why they are moving back to Sundays instead of Saturdays, she said that they lost a large Sunday audience with the test move.  They have been getting countless plea and feedback begging the buffet be returned to Sundays.

I truly consider myself fortunate to have The Loving Hut nearby and within easy access.  Count me as one truly fortunate 2-foot tall plastic fan of The Loving Hut, Orlando!

Hi-dee hi-dee we'll-be-back-ho everyone!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pasta Sostanza

Adapted from recent meal eaten at Carrabba's Italian Grill.


Pasta Sostanza a la Chucky

I promised to attempt to make Carrabba's Pasta Sostanza and I did today.  And how did it turn out?  In my opinion which Tiffany shares, outstanding!

Everything was fresh and from scratch.  From the fresh pasta that we purchased at Eat More Produce to the fresh tomatoes also from Eat More Produce, everything was fresh except for the artichoke hearts.


Ingredients

Ingredients:
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp 100% raw virgin coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 28 ounce can whole tomatoes with juice, chopped (I used 32 ounce fresh vine ripened tomatoes)
  • 8 mushrooms, diced
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained
  • 10 large basil leaves, each torn into 3-4 pieces (Note:  Carrabba's uses spinach and not basil.)
  • 1 Tbsp capers (optional)
  • 10 pitted black olives, diced (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp Italian bread crumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Bragg's organic seasoning, to taste

Chopped fresh Campani tomatoes

Directions:
  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, place the coconut oil and onion over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes, or until onions are soft and translucent and just starting to caramelize.  Add garlic and cook 1 more minute.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes, and chopped black olives and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently to keep the sauce from burning.  (Note:  Since I used fresh tomatoes, I reduced to simmer after 20 minutes and continued to simmer for several hours longer.)
  3. When the sauce is done, add the salt, pepper and Bragg's to taste.  Add the torn basil leaves and cover tightly.
  4. As pasta is cooking, add chopped mushrooms and chopped drained artichoke hearts.
  5. When done, drain pasta and add sufficient amount of sauce (1 cup per serving), mixing to sufficiently coat.
  6. Transfer to plate or pasta bowl.  Sprinkle capers (optional) and Italian bread crumbs prior to serving.


Tomatoes added to sauteed onion, garlic, black olives.


The recipe made about 2 quarts of sauce.  We transferred unused sauce into a container to be stored in refrigerator for several more meals.


Simmering sauce

Without our plates being side-by-side with the dish that Carrabba's had served, I cannot truly compare.  However, I feel quite confident that my recipe is quite close and primary differences being source of ingredients.  For example, I am certain that Carrabbas uses San Marzano tomatoes.  I used Campari tomatoes.  They use 1/4 cup olive oil, I use 1 tablespoon coconut oil.  I used Bragg's to season, they use other spices.
I'm quite pleased and maybe next time I will use San Marzano tomatoes if I cannot find fresh vine ripened tomatoes at Eat More Produce.


Nutrition per cup

Mmm... I can still taste the dinner and am already looking forward to my next Pasta Sostanza dinner!

Hi-dee hi-dee you can do it-ho my curious culinary friends! 

Print Recipe

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Vegan Eatin' on a Budget!


Tips to help you save money and animals.

Whether you're a student, raising a family on a tight budget, or just trying to make ends meet, choosing to buy vegan foods doesn't mean you have to break the bank.  Sure, you can splurge on savory mock meats and non-dairy cheeses that are readily available in grocery stores everywhere, but there are plenty of fantastic, nutritious vegan options that are as economical as they are delicious.

Here are some meal ideals to help you discover how easy - and affordable - it is to transition to a more compassionate diet!

Breakfast
  • Oatmeal with fruit or maple syrup
  • Cereal with soy milk and sliced bananas
  • Peanut butter (and fruit spread) on toast or a bagel
  • Smoothie:  blend fresh or frozen banana chunks and soy milk
Lunch & Dinner
  • Rice, beans and vegetables on a platter or in corn tortillas
  • Pasta with tomato sauce and frozen veggies
  • Baked sweet potato topped with salsa, baked beans, or veggie chili
Snacks
  • Celery, apples, or carrots topped with peanut butter
  • Popcorn seasoned with nutritional yeast or salt
  • Make-your-own trail mix with nuts, raisins, and sunflower seeds.
 Hi-dee hi-dee simple works-ho everyone!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Welcome December! It's Baseline Time.

The measurements below are accurate and representative as of December 1st, 2010.  However, my words are written the evening before.  Yes.  It's November 30th. Tiffany and I are about to embark upon our third month as lifelong vegetarians.

Am I nervous for tomorrow's weigh-in?  Absolutely!  As I write this I truly believe that I may have minimally lost weight but cannot be absolutely certain until tomorrow morning.  If I did not lose weight?  What next?  Well ~ I can accept that I am learning to be a good vegetarian and have had my struggles limiting daily calories.

Tiffany and I were just discussing it over dinner this evening.  We may not be losing weight at a desired rate but we both feel absolutely fabulous and haven't the slightest inkling of regret or vegetarian remorse.  Now that Thanksgiving has passed, we have recommitted to more closely monitor daily calories.  Today?

November 30th 2010:  1,561 calories consumed by Chucky

The Diet Power entry above represents smoothie only for breakfast.  Lunch was 1/2 of leftover P.F. Chang's Buddha's Feast Stir-Fried on brown rice with tofu.  According to their web site's nutritional information, I've calculated quite high on the total calories.  I try to go heavy on my guesstimates rather than low.  Dinner?  Two black bean tacos with small side of chips.  Again, the chip portion served with the "Two Tacos for Tuesdaze" special is significantly less that their normal 1 order side portion that I used.

I tend to go a little high on my food log to compensate for the intangibles.  Today's intangibles?  Several pieces of seaweed (wild Atlantic laver) and about five seaweed rice crackers.  Everything else accounted for, I believe.

Chucky & The Seed
Weight:  313.8 lbs (Nov 1 = 318.4)
Glucose (fasting):  109 mg/dL (Nov 1 = 114)
Systolic:  128 mmHg (Nov 1 = 123)
Diastolic:  72 mmHg (Nov 1 = 79)
Heart Rate:  73 pulses/minute (Nov 1 = 74)
The Seed?  No.  She finds the whole plastic doll, silly mask and vegetarian thing quite humorous.  But, she's quite the ham and is getting her picture posted on the Internet isn't she?

Wow!  Sixty-one days practically without meat.  "What?  Practically?" you say.  I have to be honest.  There are still occasions where we have consumed non-human animal based broth.  For example, the noodle soups at Phat Thai Café only come in animal-based broth.  Sadly, no vegetarian choice for soup.  Maybe Tiger (owner & chef) can be convinced down the road to offer a vegetable-based noodle soup?  Oh happy day that would be indeed!

There you have it folks.  Tiffany and I now begin vegetarian month #3 of our journey.  It only continues to get better from here I assure you.  Regardless what numbers are posted for the picture above, trust me...  We will lose that weight!  Tiffany and I have some plan of attack which we have yet to share with you.  So, stay tuned and watch as we become healthy, fit, trim and live long meat-free lives together. 

Hi-dee hi-dee healthy-ho to you!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New-To-You Food Guide

  • Ground "beef" is an animal-friendly version of the real thing.  You can find it in most grocery stores or you can make it using TVP (see below).  Brands include Gimme Lean and Boca.
  • Nutritional yeast is an inactive, vitamin- and mineral-rich yeast that adds a cheesy flavor to soups, casseroles or in place of cheese to make any dish creamier.
  • Seitan (SAY-tan), also known as gluten or wheat meat, is a delicious, high-protein meat substitute.  Seitan can be found prepackaged in many grocery stores.  Brands include White Wave and Lightlife.
  • Soy margarine is a tasty, non-dairy version of butter without the cholesterol or cruelty.  Brands include Earth Balance and Willow Run.
  • Soy milk is a healthy alternative to cow's milk and is widely available in grocery stores everywhere.  Soy milk can be substituted for milk in any recipe.  Brands include Silk, Edensoy, and WestSoy.
  • Tahini is a calcium-rich, creamy, sesame seed paste often used in Middle Eastern cuisine.
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is a dried soy product that substitutes for ground beef in stews, chilis, pasta sauce, and more.
  • Tofu is a versatile, high-protein soy product readily available in many different textures from silken (great in smoothies and desserts) to extra firm; happily absorbs surrounding flavors and spices.
  • Vegan mayonnaise is a creamy egg- and dairy-free version of mayonnaise.  Available in most health food stores.  Brands include Follow Your Heart and Nasoya.
  • Veggie sausage links are meat-free alternatives, rich in protein and flavor.  Available in most grocery stores.  Brands include Tofurky and Lightlife.
Hi-dee hi-dee knowledge is golden-ho my friends!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hmm... I Can Make This

Greetings from the land of misunderstood dolls with daggers.  I celebrated Tiffany's birthday last night at Carrabba's restaurant.  While her parents elected to feast on a carnivorous meal selection, Tiffany and I both stayed true to our new ways.


Pasta Sostanza

We ordered and shared a Quattro Formaggi  brick oven pizza and Pasta Sostanza.  Of course there was also the Happy Hour buy-1-get-1-free house Cabernet Sauvignon.  Coincidentally, their house Cab is a brand called Copper Ridge.  Unfortunately, Copperridge wine is a special brand made by the Gallo Winery that is only available through restaurants, usually as their "house brand".  But, of course, it can be purchased online.  After all, everything has a price doesn't it?  No... I will NOT sell my dagger!

Quottro Formaggi Pizza - Sundried tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, romano, mozzarella, fontina and goat cheese.  Baked in a 600-degree brick oven.

Pasta Sostanza -  Tagliarini pasta with sautéed mushrooms, artichoke hearts and spinach in tomato basil sauce topped with seasoned breadcrumbs.

Both dishes were exceptional, as with every Carrabba's menu choice.  Particularly tickling my plastic fancy was the Pasta Sostanza.  Truly stupendous and I can honestly recall the pleasurable culinary experience that I had last night when my mind does its' magic.

Yes!  You've guessed it my friend.  I find myself having to replicate that recipe.  So today, Tiffany and I scoured our local market and purchased sufficient ingredient.  We bought some fresh pasta and fresh basil from Eat More Produce.  I had some jarred artichoke hearts in oil from Costco but I want to make it ultra-healthy.  Instead, we dropped by Target to purchase a can of artichoke heart in water.  I already have some fresh mushroom, crushed garlic, and Bragg's no-salt seasoning.

I plan to "wing it" when making my replicate dish.  I'll simply toast some crushed garlic in a Pam sprayed non-stick pan until toasted to perfection.  Then add some crushed tomatoes, Bragg's seasoning, diced mushroom, artichoke hearts, fresh basil and fresh baby spinach.   I'll probably include a few diced kalamata olives.  Simmer on the side while I cook the fresh pasta.  Bring the two together, top it with a skosh of Italian bread crumbs, and see what I end up with.

Hey!  I'll let you know how it goes, okay?

Hi-dee hi-dee dine on it and then try recreating it-ho my culinary vegetarian friends!


Saturday, November 27, 2010

First Vegetarian Thanksgiving Review

Hi everyone!  I hope that each and everyone of you were able to celebrate Thanksgiving with family, friends, and loved ones.  May it have provided a solace of peace and may you have found reason for giving thanks to anything heartfelt and true.

Well... Tiffany and my first vegetarian Thanksgiving is behind us and how did it go?  To be truthful, it was a delicious and pleasant as with any Thanksgiving celebration past.  

No, neither Tiffany nor I felt deprived of anything from the Thanksgiving table nor did our carnivore family members feel intimidated by our healthy lifestyle choice.  Everyone had a wonderful time and I even succeeded in my in-laws trying a small piece of Quorn turk'y roast.  Both of them thought it delicious and very much a true turkey texture.  No, we're not going to get them to convert but I truly appreciated their tasting the sample that had been offered.

Give it time.  When they see the change in weight, color in cheeks, and energy in limbs; they may contemplate making a change themselves?  Oh yes, my father-in-law was impressed with fresh homemade almond milk for his cereal as way mother-in-law by the morning veggie (kale, collard green, spinach, and banana) smoothie.

Everything was delicious, nutritious, and filling.  Like all Thanksgivings of my past, I found myself sitting in front of the television watching football and asking myself, "Why did you eat that much Chucky?"

"If anything, what was missing from your first vegetarian Thanksgiving, Chucky?"  I can think of only one thing that would be largely missing from the table had we not shared it with our carnivore family members.  That is the non-human animal turkey itself.  Had we only the Quorn turk'y roast on the table, the shape of the real turkey would be lacking.  But, I cannot speak for you but I don't eat shape.

Hi-dee hi-dee have a wonderful day-ho to one and all!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Spread

Source:  flavorvegan
(makes approximately 1-1/2 cups)

Cashews, peppers, vinegar, salt, and yeast flakes

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 2 roasted red peppers
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes 


Ready to launch... 3... 2... 1...
 
Directions:
  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
  2. Serve with bread, in sandwiches, on top of pizzas and so much more.
Houston.  We have lift-off!

Nutrition per tablespoon



Hi-dee hi-dee nut spread-ho to all!


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