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A Look Back & New Goals /// 2013 Round-Up

December 29, 2013

Winter-Reflection

 

The small gap between Christmas and New Years has always been a time of reflection. A time to sit back in awe and amazement that another year has gone by. A time to shuffle through all the things you’ve clung onto for the past year. And a time to let go of all the items on your list that weren’t checked off. It’s even easier for us bloggers to do this since we’ve got a whole website dedicated to documenting our year – whether its through the food we ate or the clothes we wore or the products we lusted over..these actions tell a story that make up a chapter of our lives.

I’m very pleased to report that my reflections this year have been SO much more positive than last years. 2012 had been a year of huge change and a complete year of doubt. I had graduated from college halfway through and had spent my whole life in confidence before that point. After graduation, I was left feeling lost and vulnerable – left with complete doubt in everything I did (everything from where I was living to what food I was putting into my body to coming to terms with getting older). But – let’s stop there and not reminiscent down that rabbit hole.

It feels so good to read that old post and know that I’ve grown into my ‘adult’ skin so much in this past year. Yes, I still have a lot of growing to do and I still have a long list of irrational fears (who doesn’t?) but it’s been such an improvement since then. I’ve come to really love the small Midwest town I call home – not because there is that punk house that used to serve us drinks underage during shows or those spider-ridden rocks where we could day drink on the lake all day without being bothered. No, I’ve learned to look at this city with fresh eyes and appreciate being able to walk a few blocks to our local co-op grocery store to buy ‘hard to find’ flour blends and local produce. I’ve learned to love the lake for it’s beautiful trails that you can spend a whole Saturday afternoon getting lost in (sober!) and making your dog’s day by taking him for long walks through the centuries old neighborhoods.

I don’t think I’ve changed too much in 2013 but my outlook certainly has. I’m so very excited to evolve more come 2014. Here were my 2013 goals:

1. More adventures close to home

2. Less doubt, More Risk

3. Less processed foods

4. Work on photography

5. Keep moving forward & always improving

6. Continue to surround myself with positive people

 

I think it’s safe to say I can check all of those off my list. Although, everything on that list are all things that are still a ‘work in progress’ and I do want to continue with these goals in 2014. Here are a few more light-hearted goals to add to the 2014 mix:

7. Get our asses to Montreal. It’s time – this IS our next big trip.

8. Spend as many lazy Saturdays as possible on the vintage turquoise boat I inherited

9. Rent a summer home on Lake Michigan and spend a weekend on the beach

10. Make my own print magazine / zine (whether it be a collaboration or just all VV – it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and needs to happen)

10 feels good. 6 BIG ongoing goals from last year and 4 new fun ones. Yeah, I feel good about this. I’m ready for you 2014!

 

And finally, as I continue with my reflection of 2013, I thought I’d share some of my favorite VV memories with you..

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Chocolate & Spiced Chai Biscotti

December 24, 2013

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MERRY CHRISTMAS [EVE] (or, to all of you who don’t celebrate Christmas, HAPPY TUESDAY!). I love Christmas eve just as much as I love Christmas day. This is because, growing up, my parent’s were divorced so we always had Christmas with my Father ‘s family on the 24th and then had ANOTHER Christmas with my mother’s family on the 25th. I never could relate to those kids who were so excited to get to open ONE present on Christmas Eve to hold them over – I always received DOZENS of gifts on Christmas eve followed up lots more gifts on Christmas day. As I’ve aged, I’ve toned down a little (just a little!) on my excitement for a double dose of gifts but have learned to find joy in so many other wonderful aspects of having two Christmases in a row. Double the santa cookies. Double the Christmas movies. Double the Yule log playing in the background on your tv (speaking of that, I’ll be playing Lil Bub’s yule log video this year – if my family doesn’t think thats too weird).

But, to be completely honest, this biscotti has nothing to do with Christmas and I really just chatted about Christmas Eve because I’m just so darn excited its finally here. This biscotti is actually about having 11 days off of work in a row – which is the longest vacation time I’ve had in 2013. It’s about finally having lazy mornings after lazy mornings of sipping coffee in bed and enjoying a favorite magazine while munching some biscotti. It’s all about mastering the technique of getting the biscotti soggy enough in your coffee that it doesn’t crumble all over your sheets but firm enough that it’s still crunchy when take that first bite. But don’t worry, it’s okay if it takes you a few days to master this technique – we’ve still got loads more days off ahead of us!

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Dark Chocolate Cappuccino Thumbprint Cookies with Maple Pumpkin Butter

December 15, 2013

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Have you started counting down yet? 9 days! That means only 9 more days of being able to listen to your favorite festive Christmas vinyl. And 9 more nights to get in all the must-watch Xmas movies starring Chevy Chase and Will Ferril. 9 more days to make every cookie recipe you see on Pinterest. We must hurry, guys! No time to waste here!

Christmas is known as a holiday to bring people together but it has built a barrier between my boyfriend and me. Instead of growing more cheerful the closer it gets, I notice him retreating more and more into an annoyed and irritated state. I’m not sure why or how but he hates Christmas decorating, making cookies, festive music, and holiday themed movies. I know, I know – I don’t understand either. This last month has been a battle for the radio, where in the house I can squeeze in a tree without him moving it back into the closet, and a struggle for who is going to put a movie on first.

I want to watch Christmas Vacation, he wants to watch Dune. I want to listen to Sufjan Steven’s Christmas boxset, he wants ambient new-age noise. I want a fragrant and fresh wreath, he wants to use that money to go out to brunch. I wear ugly sweaters almost all December long, he only wears black.

 

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How To Make Pureed Soup Without A Recipe /// Guest Post by Livia Sweets

December 12, 2013

Remember when I posted that wonderful staple recipe for homemade vegetable stock over at Livia Sweets last month? Well, Claire from Livia Sweets has been kind enough to build on that and create a wonderful tutorial for me to share with all you VV readers. I am so excited to say that she has the secret of how to make delicious pureed soup without a recipe and is here sharing it with all of us today!

That’s right – a healthy recipe! You have to be getting a tooth ache from looking at all those sweet recipes all over the internet right now! Here is a nice break and cleansing meal idea to enjoy between woofing down sprtiz cookies. Enjoy!

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Gingerbread Syrup /// DIY Gifting

December 9, 2013

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Yikes, another sweets recipe? The holiday season has once again taken over and I can’t seem to get my mind to focus on anything else. I feel a little guilty about how sugar-laden VV has been over the past month (I’m not exaggerating. don’t believe me? Look here. and here. and even here). I feel like I’m setting a bad example after I went on that long rant last week to you guys about how switching to a vegetarian lifestyle is a healthy choice. So, I guess, what I’m trying to say is that for every sweets recipe I post on here, there are 10 salads being eaten in the days between which are not getting photographed / recorded. And that being a vegetarian is not an excuse to skip dinner because there is meat in it and jump right into dessert. But… do you know what is an excuse for that? The holidays! And they are here – so why don’t we just indulge for a little longer? Come on – what do you say? Well stuff our faces with fresh lentil soup and kale smoothies come the New Year – I promise!

My initial thought when deciding to make this syrup was that I could use dates as the sweetener and do a little bit of healthy twist on it. But I also wanted to make this syrup for far-away friends and I was worried about the dates not being able to travel halfway across the country without spoiling, ya know? What an awful greeting to an old friend – ‘Hey! Here is a package of spoiled baked goods for you! Enjoy! Hope ya don’t get too sick’. It just didn’t seem worth the risk. So, instead, I stuck to the good ‘ole fashion recipe that we’ve been making every year around this time. Silky and sweet – so you only need a few teaspoons. Perfect in your hot cocoa or morning cup of coffee. A great addition to a festive cocktail or to drizzle over baked goods. When deciding that I wanted to make some festive care packages for old friends, I couldn’t think of a more versatile gift.

In addition to this syrup, I’m including some homemade vanilla extract (that has been aging for 5 months now), my Sweet & Salty Curry Molasses Popcorn, and Baker Royale’s Cookies & Cream Bark (which was really just an excuse to buy another package of Newman-Os) in the goodies I’m sending to friends.

Next up – family packages! What are you DIY gifting this year? I need some more inspiration!

***REMINDER: Don’t forget to enter to win the book bundle I am giving away! Entries will be accepted until next Sunday so hop on over here and sign up!***

 

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On Being Vegetarian + A Giveaway!

December 5, 2013

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I’d like to think I’m not a preachy vegetarian. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a very meat-centric family that would have half a cow in their freezer at all times (from the farmer down the street) and a family who found my eating habits to be bizarre. Or maybe it’s because I can’t help but roll my eyes at every new food trend that comes onto the market and the media’s excuses for why you should try it out. Or maybe it’s because I met a lot of pushy people who wanted to tell me why ‘meat is the answer’ and I realize how annoying it can be to have another diet pushed on you. And perhaps more because I hate explaining my dietary reasoning to everyone. ‘Is it because of health? It it for animal rights? It is environmental excuses? religion?’

To be honest, it’s because of a lot of things but mostly because of the animals and my health. I used to hate getting those ‘Oh, so do you work for PETA or something?’ looks when explaining I didn’t approve of commercial farming or that I couldn’t stomach the texture of fatty meat in my mouth. I used to usually just say it was for my health (which, in part, is true) and explain that I lost a lot of weight and gained so much energy when I transitioned to vegetarianism. Although, I was also 12 and going through puberty so who knows which helped out more? Being a vegetarian for 12 years, I sort of forgot why I did it until a few months back. Being vegetarian has become such second nature that I never ever even think to glance at a meat item on the menu or compromise on a chicken based broth at a restaurant.

I didn’t realize my animal morals were so strong until my boyfriend went hunting with his father a few months back. It being his first time and his excuse was to get out into the woods / meditate so I didn’t really think much of them actually killing anything. Oh but they did. They came home with big grins on their faces and a giant dead deer in their trunk. I remember seeing the look of smog on their faces when they broke the news and I had to hold back crying. For a few days, I couldn’t put my finger on why I was so upset – people have been hunting for thousands of years and it’s very natural. I finally realized that my opinions on killing & eating animals were more passionate than I had previous thought. I was so angry at how selfish the whole situation was; he’s been eating a sustainable and delicious vegetarian diet the 3 years we’ve been together and it bummed me out that he could so selfishly take a life for a ‘morning of fun’. It’s one thing when you need it to survive but it’s another thing when we can so easily live off of plants and nuts. It all just seems so selfish when removed from the ‘meat and potato’ American stigma we are used to.

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What sprung putting my vegetarian thoughts down on paper was receiving a copy of The Vegetarian Cookbook For Beginners which is divided into a informative section as the first part and recipes as the second. I was amazed at how much I learned about the different religious, moral, and health reasons that provokes people to go veg. I was also fascinated to learn about all the health benefits, the history of vegetarianism, and some of the many challenges that come along with switching to a new lifestyle.

I know that not all of you come to VV because you are vegetarian. Perhaps some are here for the creative recipes and clean aesthetic? Or some are just interested in what it is like to be a vegetarian? Or some of you prefer to eat a few vegetarian meals a week? Or some just really enjoy my sweets posts that have nothing to do with any dietary restrictions. Whatever your reason is for being here and reading this, if you have any interest in vegetarianism at all, I suggest you check this book out.

 

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And now for the giveaway! In addition to giving away the Vegetarian Cookbook For Beginners, I am also giving away some of my favorite spice grinders. Do you remember when I did a shout out to JR Watkins during that Pumpkin Pie with Salted Molasses post (pictured above)? Well I’m obviously a huge fan of their spices and they were kind enough to send me some grinders. And these aren’t just any grinders – they are lemon pepper and garlic salt. Both goes fantastic with literally everything! I’ve basically replaced them with my usual table salt / pepper because they had such a wonderful extra bite (except in baking – garlic and sweets don’t usually go together).

 

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And the last part of the giveaway are some Vegetarian ‘Ventures magnets. Yup, I made magnets. I don’t know why? Probably because my boyfriend and all his friends make band swag in the form of buttons, t-shirts, and cassettes so I wanted to have a little blog swag. Why not, right? I love these little magnets – I wish I could just send one out to every single one of you! They are seriously SO cute and awesome.

 

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The giveaway starts today and will run through next Sunday. I will be shipping out the winner their goodies the following Monday. Thanks for entering!

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Milk Stout & Sea-Salt Caramels

November 25, 2013

 

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To speak the obvious, the holidays are upon us! We’ve got Thanksgiving and the start of Hannakuh this week. And Christmas is exactly a month from today. Are you ready? Yeah, me neither. So even though I have not got around to getting gifts and roasting a giant tofurkey, at least I won’t come empty handed because I’ve got these caramels!

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These little candies are the perfect accompaniment for all your holiday gatherings. Going to a Thanksgiving where the host has already agreed to make EVERYTHING? Bring these instead of (or along with) that bottle of wine – it’ll be more personal and they are so perfectly petite that you don’t have to feel guilty about munching a few down before the big feast.

Or these would be wonderful to have on the table during a winter gift wrapping party (am I the only one who has those? It’s really the best excuse to make mulled wine and listen to Christmas records with friends). Or to bring to that ugly sweater party. Or really just to have out on the table all December long while you prep for the holidays.

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Savory Pumpkin Hand Pies

November 19, 2013

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Being a vegetarian at your boyfriend’s family Thanksgiving can be madly intimidating. Or going home and explaining to your family for the first time that you no longer will be eating your aunt’s legendary roast. Although it’s never fun having to repeat yourself over and over to every person at the gathering about why you aren’t diving into that meat, it’s something all of us vegetarians (and vegans!) have had to endure. Instead of spending your entire evening avoiding eye contact with everyone in the room in an attempt to avoid that ‘dietary needs conversation’, whip up a batch of these hand pies to win everyone over. No meat lover will miss the meat in these little pockets of savory deliciousness and they might just agree that these would make a better main course (or appetizer or side or all 3).

Although eating a giant turkery for Thanksgiving is ‘traditional’, I say the hell with it! Let’s make our own tradition!! You aren’t constrained to eating that one meat that is ‘traditional’ and you can play around with any food you enjoy. And, in my opinion, I think these little pockets of pot pies are better than any dried out turkey I was served as a child.

 

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Hop on over to DeSmitten Design blog for the full recipe and learn more!

 

Caramelized Cranberry & Brie Pull-Apart Bread

November 12, 2013

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Are you guys ready to talk about Thanksgiving? Excellent because it’s been on my mind a whole bunch lately and I am wearing my excitement on my sleeve. Holidays weren’t something I truly appreciated until I moved away and spent months upon months away from my family (it also helps that, in the more recent years, I’ve become obsessed with food as well). These days, it seems like I get more and more excited about the holidays sooner and sooner. Hell, I was ready to start talking about stuffing at the end of September!

 

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Currently Lusting: Gourmande In The Kitchen

November 7, 2013

Currently Lusting is a bi-weekly series which features blogs that VV finds particularly inspiring / creative / beautiful or probably all three. Although we’d like to pretend that all of these ideas spring from these wonderful brains of ours, that is just simply not the truth. We pull so much inspiration and ideas from other blogs that I think it’s really important to acknowledge these people and the hard work they put into their virtual spaces. Want to create a truly gorgeous blog? I think the biggest step is having an inspiring set of other blogs that constantly makes you want to make yours better.

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I came across Gourmande In The Kitchen last year when searching for the perfect gluten-free birthday dessert recipe. The friend who I was making the dessert for, at the time, was very new to her gluten-free diet and I could tell she was bumming about the notion that all gluten-free desserts are dry / crumbly and not worth wasting a birthday on. Instead of trying to master a gluten-free cake on the first try, I came across Sylvie’s Chocolate Date Caramel Walnut Tart and fell in love. The birthday girl could not believe the tart has any sort of food “restrictions” like gluten-free, vegan, and even being grain-free.

 

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Currently Lusting: Reclaiming Provincial

October 24, 2013

Currently Lusting is a bi-weekly series which features blogs that VV finds particularly inspiring / creative / beautiful or probably all three. Although we’d like to pretend that all of these ideas spring from these wonderful brains of ours, that is just simply not the truth. We pull so much inspiration and ideas from other blogs that I think it’s really important to acknowledge these people and the hard work they put into their virtual spaces. Want to create a truly gorgeous blog? I think the biggest step is having an inspiring set of other blogs that constantly makes you want to make yours better.

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I found Reclaiming Provincial when searching for bitters recipes. If I could choose to get a drink with any blogger out there, it would be Carey. That girl knows how to make a serious drink! (Don’t believe me? Look here. Or here. Or here). It was her bitters knowledge that drew me in but it was the homemade Sriaracha recipe that made me know I’d forever want to follow along with Carey’s food adventures.

 

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Chickpea Tomato Minestrone [with vegan option]

October 21, 2013

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When reflecting on past gardens, I can’t help but be grateful for the fact that I was able to have an inground garden this summer. In years past, I’ve always moved in August and had failed attempts with transplanting tomato plants and herbs. This means that the last time I had a real garden was when I was little and my parent’s let me pick out what I wanted to grow. And that was gourds – I remember distintcly only wanting to grow gourds and my parents thinking that was a little funny (although I wouldn’t understand why until many years later… when I realized they are really not very useful in the kitchen).

But anyhow, this year… this year I was able to go all out. No more of that half assing tomato and basil plant in a few pots. Nope, Nope. This year I wanted a garden both in the back and side yard (one for full sun and one for part). We planted tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, kale, swiss chard, scallions, lemongrass, cucumbers, bell peppers, jalapeños, rosemary, sage, and so on. Some of them flourished (lemongrass, scallions, kale, tamotoes) and some of them never quite got off the ground (potatoes, cucumbers…). But whether they grew to monstorous portions or stayed micro size, we tried to harvest and enjoy them. We harvested everything in September but the swiss chard and lemongrass.

 

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I’m not sure what I was waiting for with the swiss chard but I knew I was ignoring it until a sign occured. Whether that sign was a must-try recipe or the first frost biting at it’s leaves, I knew I needed a sign. Perhaps it was because the leaves were coming in so beautifully with the colored veins speckled through out them. Whatever it was, I knew I didn’t want to waste these greens by burying them at the bottom of a recipe.

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Nutmeg Banana Carrot Muffins /// Some Words on Sugar Substitutes

September 29, 2013

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Today is Sunday, September 29th. Today is a very very special day. Or should I say tonight? Yes, tonight is a very very very special night. Tonight is the season finale of Breaking Bad. It is when three (four?!) years of pain-stakingly frustrating tension is finally resolved (or at least we hope it will be). There is only one problem: we don’t have cable. How did we watch all the other 61 episodes then, you ask? Well you can stream them on the network’s website the followig day after an episode has aired. Which I am usually totally fine with. But this is the season finale of the whole series. And I can’t stop thinking about it. I don’t want to go into work tomorrow and have to keep my ears shut the whole day. Or spend the next 24 hours avoiding my newsfeeds on facebook and twitter. I want to experience it along with the rest of America.

So, how will I do this, you ask? Well, I’m not sure. But I sure as hell want to be prepared with baked goods when I figure it out. I’m thinking…bribing frineds with these muffins? Or the bartender to turn it to AMC with these little handheld cakes. Or maybe even going over to our new neighbors house and using these muffins as a ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ peace treaty right when the show is starting (that way I can peep in the door and see if they are watching it. ‘OH! You guys are watching Breaking Bad?! We were just about to put it on. Maybe we should all watch it together. I also have some local cider and whiskey I can bring over, if you’d like….’). You know, those kinds of things.

 

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Oh no. This post was supposed to be a distraction from thinking about Breaking Bad. Okay, what were we talking about before I so rudely changed the subject to a drug-ring-themed-pop-culture-television-drama? Oh yeah, muffins. And not just any muffins – muffins exploding with nutritional benefits like dates (fiber, iron, calcium), bananas (potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C), nutmeg (iron, magnesium, calcium), and carrots (vitamin A). These are nutritional enough for breakfast but satisfying enough for dessert. And even scrumptious enough to bribe your friends with.

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Blueberry Pistachio Parfait with Quinoa Granola and Maple Cashew Cream [Vegan]

September 1, 2013

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There is so much fall going on around Pinterest these days; I find it to be both appalling and kind of exciting. Maybe it’s this streak of 90 degree weather or my longing for copious amounts of curry in my stomach or the desire to wear knee high socks but I am feeling ready for it. [Heck, maybe I even already bought a can of organic pumpkin for vegan fall baking].

My brain feels so fried from this heat that I’ve managed to stumble into a mundane food routine of salads for lunch and veggie sandwiches for dinner. That is about it….Well, almost it. The other summertime food that has been a regular lately is greek yogurt and homemade granola. So much so that I am starting to think we may need to take some time off from each other soon or we may not be able to stay friends.

Thus, in an attempt to keep yogurt off my long list of hated foods (right next to beets and jello), I decided to try cashew cream in my breakfast parfaits. I originally made the cashew cream to lather on eclairs (…more on that in the coming days) but haven’t looked back at yogurt in weeks.

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The cashew cream only takes a few minutes to whip up and usually lasts me 3 to 4 servings of breakfast. It’s sweeter than yogurt but not so much that you feel guilty about enjoying it for breakfast. Feel free to enjoy with whatever granola you have on hand but I highly recommend trying out this quinoa version. The toasted quinoa gives the granola a crunchy texture unlike any kind of granola I’ve had before. And it’s a complete protein so you’ll be really ready to start your day right. ‘Nuff said?

 

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Blueberry Pistachio Parfait with Quinoa Granola and Maple Cashew Cream

Inspired by Gourmande in the Kitchen & Cashew Cream adapted from Oh, Ladycakes

For the granola:

  • 1 cup tri-colored quinoa (or 1/2 cup red + 1/2 cup white), rinsed super well
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • dash of cinnamon & nutmeg
  • vanilla bean, seeds removed and pod discarded (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil (or any baking oil you’d prefer)
  • 2 Tablespoons honey (or more maple syrup to keep vegan)
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, divided & lightly crushed

For the maple cashew cream:

  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked in water overnight
  • 4 dates, pitted
  • 2-3 Tablespoons maple syrup (depending on how sweet you want to make it)
  • about 1/4 cup water
  • 1 pint blueberries

Submerge cashews in water and let soak overnight.

Remove pits from dates and let soak with the cashews 30 minutes prior to making the cream.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine the quinoa, rolled oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the vanilla bean seeds in a mixing bowl. Fold in the oil, maple syrup, and honey. Transfer to a baking sheet and spread out as much as possible. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to keep from burning. After 30 minutes, add 1/4 cup crushed pistachios to granola and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Drain cashews / dates and place in a food process or blender. Add the maple syrup and 1/4 cup water. Blend. If too thick, gradually add more water a tablespoon at a time until a desired consistency is reached (I like mine at the consistency of greek yogurt – thick and sustainable but a little fluffy).

To assemble: Layer the cream followed by the cooled granola followed by blueberries and garnish with crushed pistachio and cinnamon.

 

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Summer Recap Zine // Vegetarian Ventures Issue 1

August 29, 2013

 

I already showed this on VV’s Facebook and Pinterest yesterday but I wanted to share it with all of you. I created a short Summer recap zine with some of my favorite highlights for what has been going on around VV this past season.

I am totally hooked on independent magazines right now. Having articles published in Chickpea, Incadenscent, and Remedy Quarterly has made me realize how fun it is to see your work in print. There is something so satisfying about being able to stack your pieces of creative work on a shelf instead of in a hard drive. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the internet but there is nothing better than being able to flip through pages of inspiration over and over again.

In addition to hoping to write a small recap zine every season, I’d really love to start making a collaborative publication in the near future. I really enjoy the community that is built around having a blog and would love to expand it beyond guest posts and re-pins. You know, something physical [eventually] and filled with recipes, adventures, tricks, tips, guides, drawing, a cute name (Toast? Hibiscus?), and (of course) beautiful photography. I realize that will mean recruiting a co-op of writers, adventures, photographers, taste-makers, bakers, and designers (these people could be YOU. Yes? No? Maybe?). Until then, I’ve got my VV recap zine to get my technique down.

What independent zines have you been lusting over lately? I’ve been SO into Kinfolk, Pure Green Magazine, and Weekend Almanac.

Goat Cheese Polenta with Basil Almond Pesto & Pan Fried Chickpeas [For one]

August 21, 2013

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Wyatt is off at a Black Sabbath concert tonight . No, I’m not sure why – he’s not a 60 year old fan or a metal head of any kinds [but this is beside the point]. The point is that I’m here alone tonight. I decide to have a sort of girl’s night…with myself. Yoga, red wine, and a chick flick (Bridesmaid to be exact…hey, don’t judge! Everyone ALWAYS references it and I have no idea what they are ever talking about). This is a special treat because I’m usually get suckered into alien, death-centric, action flicks and a case of beer.

This also meant I was on my own for dinner this evening. Any normal American would have probably just got chinese take-out but I was excited by the thought of not having to worry about another person’s needs / preferences. Both polenta and chickpeas are two things Wyatt isn’t really that crazy about – and I totally disagree. I personally don’t think there could ever be anything wrong with a big bowl of corn creaminess that takes on the subtle flavor of whatever cheese you decide to melt into it. And as for chickpeas – give me them anyway you’d like: blended, roasted, sautéed, or panfried.

Needless to say, I’ve settled in for the night with this big polenta bowl and my boxer dog, Tuko. If you need us – we’ll be over here watching some girls relieve themselves in wedding dresses because of some bad Mexican food they ate (gross! Sorry, Bridesmaid reference?)

When pan frying the chickpeas, make sure you use just a big enough skillet so that they can lay evenly in one layer but not so big that you have to use half your bottle of oil. And as for the pesto, I’ve been into using kale (since it grows like wildflowers in my garden) but went with basil on this one since it’s finally basil season – feel free to use whatever leafy green you have on hand!

 

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Goat Cheese Polenta with Basil Almond Pesto & Pan Fried Chickpeas

  • 1 cup dried polenta
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 ounces goat cheese (or more if you are like me)

 

  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt / pepper

 

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (from a can or from dried)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • salt / pepper
  • oil (I used olive but you could use vegetable as well)

In a food processor or very powerful blender, combine all the pesto ingredients and blend until a smooth paste forms. Add more olive oil if needed to reach your desired consistency. Set aside.

In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add polenta and lower heat to medium low. Whisk continuously until the polenta has become thick enough that it won’t stick to the bottom. After fifteen minutes of simmering, stir in the cheese and remove from heat. Cover to keep warm and set aside.

In a large cast iron skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium. Add chickpeas, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Sauté for ten to fifteen minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined tray. Let sit for a few minutes to crisp up.

Mix the polenta, chickpeas, and pesto all together and enjoy!

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VV Turns 2 /// Spicy Double Chocolate Cookies with Cappuccino Frosting

August 17, 2013

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Yay – today Vegetarian Venture’s has officially been around (and active!) for two years! It seems both unreal and yet two years doesn’t seem that long. I can’t remember my life without this creative outlet and can’t imagine what I did with all my time before baking, cooking, photography, styling, and playing with food?

The world as I know it has changed drastically since 2011. Two years ago, this guy didn’t exist:

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And I didn’t live in our blue house with this guy:

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Two years ago I was going to school part time and working at a local co-op grocery store. The co-op had this wonderful shelf in the fridge called the ‘chump shelf’ and was filled with any sort of unsellable item that were up for grabs – day old baguettes (perfect for french toast), pints of berries with one moldy piece, two day old tabbouleh (everyone know it’s better after it’s aged a bit), blemished organic produce, bulk bags of grains that people bagged up and then decided against buying, etc. As a student trying to live cheapily and still obsessed with food, this was the most amazing shelf for me. I would come home beaming every night with bags full of free food and feed my entire house full of college roommates. The food I brought would often times be a weird mix of ingredients and that was what sparked searching through recipes and blogs and eventually starting VV to document my adventures.

Two years later and I do not still work at the co-op (but still live right down the street from it and shop their almost everyday), have graduated college, and don’t have a house full of roommate to feed. I do, however, still love blogging and spend most of my free time cooking for my boyfriend / boxer.

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Continue Reading…

Currently Crushing

August 11, 2013

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In an attempt to not completely fall off the grid during the ‘dog days of summer’, I thought I’d fill you in on a few things I’ve been up to aside from cooking. With my kitchen lacking air conditioning (UGH), I’ve been keeping the cooking to a minimum and mostly sticking to veggie centric salads, staple recipes that I know are quick, and grilling outside.

Anyhow,  I’ve been turning to other outlets of inspiration – mostly spending a large portion of my free time reading and thought I’d share a few recent favorites with you guys.

Top right: I found this back issue of Pure Green Magazine at a local bookstore and am totally in love. This particular issue is their ‘food’ issue and features articles ranging from the history of ancient grains to a step by step on how to make the best coffee. It has become a new indie magazine staple to add to my shelf alongside Chickpea Quarterly and Kinfolk.

Continue Reading…

Fresh Squeezed Bloody Mary with Rosemary Infused Vodka & Goat Cheese Olives

July 15, 2013

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I’m all about playing around and inventing new cocktails (see: Loaded Hibiscus Arnold Palmer, Blueberry Basil Peach Fizz, etc) but sometimes you just need to go with a traditional cocktail. And NOTHING (I mean NOTHING) is better than a fresh squeezed Bloody mary during peak tomato season. It’s savory and spicy and elegant and just darn right delicious.

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There is this AWFUL local sports bar that we used to go to on Sundays because it was right next to our old house. And when I say awful..I mean awful. Big screen TVs so loud that you can’t hear the person next to you, bland bar foods that leaves the one vegetarian option of french fries, and snooty blonde waitresses that pay you no attention knowing they’ll get bigger tips from the table of men across the room. But despite the terrible service and atmosphere, I became addicted to their signature Bloody Mary’s. I didn’t even know I LIKED Bloody Mary’s before I had one here. It was like a meal in a glass…savory, peppery, and full of spice. This is what got me hooked.

This takes quite a few tomatoes to make a decent amount of juice so this is a recipe you’ll want to make at the peak of garden season. Plus, this cocktail will taste the best with in-season, right off the vine, tomatoes. None of the ‘recipes’ below are exact. Unlike baking, making cocktails is all about experimenting and working in your personal preference. Like it spicy? Add more sriracha. Like it strong? Up the vodka ratio.

Also, I recommend not wasting the leftover tomato skins – I just put mine in the freezer for the next time I make some vegetable broth but you could also use them to make tomato paste or even just chop up and throw in a salad.

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Rosemary Infused Vodka

  • 3 large rosemary sprigs
  • 1 cup clear vodka

Combine vodka and rosemary in a clear glass jar and seal. Stick in the fridge and let infuse for several days (I did mine three days ahead of time). Shake once a day. Strain rosemary and use the infused vodka in all your favorite drinks.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Olives

  • 1 jar of green olives, drained and rinsed
  • 3 ounces of goat cheese (or chèvre)
  • Salt/Pepper

Mash the goat cheese with a little salt and pepper. Stuff the peppers with cheese. (Yup – that’s it).

Fresh Squeezed Bloody Marys

  • Assortment of Heirloom tomatoes (amount depends on size and desired servings. I used 4 large tomatoes per a serving), halved
  • 1 ounce of Rosemary infused vodka (see above) or any vodka you have on hand
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • dash worcestershire sauce (vegetarian version)
  • dash of Sriracha (you can even make your own over at Reclaiming Provincial)
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Juice from half a lime
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • Celery sticks, for garnish
  • Rosemary, for garnish

Squeeze the tomato insides into a blender and do a quick puree until smooth. Add in the vodka, lemon juice, lime juice, horseradish, worcestershire sauce, sriracha, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust with more salt / pepper / sriracha to your liking. Fill a glass with ice and pour cocktail into glass.

Garnish with celery, rosemary, and goat cheese olives.

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The Blue Bush

July 12, 2013

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I had so much fun reading Baker Bettie’s post on their new home that it inspired me to give you guys a little peak into our lives.

It’s been one year since I started the ‘post college’ stage of my life that I’m currently knee deep in. It’s been a year since I moved into The Blue Bush with Wyatt and our peanut butter loving dog, Tuko. The Blue Bush (as we like to call it since…well…the outside of the house is bright blue) is a cozy little Midwest home that was built in 1910. Yup, that’s what the records say…1910. So, as you can imagine, the place isn’t exactly in tip top shape. We’ve worked hard to transform it into a home that reflects us and it’s been fun to watch the process unfold. I’ve collected quite a few pictures of the last year so I was thinking this could be a good time to show you around.

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This also means it’s been one year since we owned a microwave or a dishwasher. Can you guess which one we miss the most? What my nails wouldn’t do to have a rest from being drenched in soapy dish water for just ONE night.

As for the microwave… I always just forget they even exist these days. I still remember the look on Wyatt’s face when I first purposed not having a microwave in our new home…the look of bewilderment followed by complete disbelief. But he agreed and it’s been wonderful. I’ve learned SO many new things since having to go back to cooking ingredients the way they are supposed to be cooked (i.e. using a double boiler, boiling water over the stove top, etc). My favorite part about not having a microwave is that you always have to work for your food around here. Sure, if you REALLY want to just eat a frozen dinner of (veggie) nuggets then that’s fine…but you’ll have to bake them for 20 minutes in the oven which means you could just whip up some polenta / sautéed veggies in that same amount of time. It really has helped me to not take short cuts and prepare real food in the kitchen.

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We’ve filled the house with lots of vintage furniture…

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…And vinyl records..

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..And have filled our sunroom with house plants (which is a perfect little hideout full of green in the middle of winter)

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This is the studio room…

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<— Wyatt’s desk and (can you tell who is the clean one in this relationship? ahem, definitely not me…) and my desk —>

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We spent a lot of our time in the backyard. I’ve managed to build two gardens…one with herbs and one with vegetables. The cucumbers and zucchini have been going crazy and it’s finally time for the tomatoes to start ripening (!!!).

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Well, I just wanted to take the opportunity to show you around a little. It’s crazy it’s taken a whole year to get around to telling you about my obsession with house plants, my love for vinyl records, and show you a peak of our little cozy home. Thanks for reading!

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Homemade Raw Vegan Fudgsicles

June 20, 2013


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Anyone who is familiar with raw “cooking” will find the ingredients in this recipe as no surprise. But for those of you who aren’t, stay with me. I’m looking at people like you, Mother. The kind of people that scoff at green smoothies and kale salads (“Ew. You don’t actually drink those, do you?” my mother ALWAYS says when green smoothies are brought up.) The reason this recipe may seem weird is because the word ‘fudgsicle’ usually congers up images of pre-packed, ice cream laden, milky wonderfulness. But what if I told you that we could achieve that creaminess without the ice cream? Without even the milk. In this recipe, we use avocados as the “cream” base but still load it (of course) with chocolate and [natural] sugar (delicious delicious agave).

The cocoa does a wonderful job of taking over the flavor AND color so you don’t have to worry about trying to force feed your friends a weird greenish looking ice pop. In fact, they probably won’t even be able to taste the avocado at all if you don’t mention it!

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Oh… and did I mention that these little pops are HEALTHY?! Forget that post-dairy bloatedness that often comes with consuming a pint of ice cream. These little pops are loaded with omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, and vitamin E (just to name a few wonderful things found in avocados). So instead of feeling guilty about reaching for that popsicle in the fridge after dinner, you can get excited about getting an extra punch of nutrients while eating your dessert!

I rolled my popsicles in coconut, chopped pistachios, and sprinkles but feel free to have fun with it. Use whatever nuts you have on hand or roll them in something you know your boyfriend will love (butterscotch chips? chopped hazelnut? dried blueberries? potato chips?).

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Raw Vegan Fudgsicles

Makes 4 large fudgsicles (this will vary depending on the size of your popsicle molds)
  • 2 large ripe avocados (3 if they are small)
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder (most are vegan but double check before purchasing)
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • ~1/4 cup water

Topping suggestions: 

  • chopped pistachios
  • shredded coconut

Use a mixer to blend together the avocados, cocoa powder, agave nectar, vanilla extract, and water. Blend until light and fluffy – if stiff then add a little more water. Divide among popsicle molds and let set in the freezer for at least 5 hours (I let mine sit overnight… just to be safe).

Enjoy once frozen or roll slightly softened popsicle in nuts, coconut, or both.

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Coriander Hummus

June 17, 2013

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Did everyone have a fantastic Father’s day? What wonderful thing did you do for our Father? I drove eight hours to see Fleetwood Mac in Chicago with my Father on Friday (although…he paid for the ridiculously over-priced tickets so we are probably even). My father ALWAYS had a Fleetwood Mac album on in the car when I was little and it’s one of the rare moments I remember singing and dancing with him. It was awesome growing up on Fleetwood Mac, I’ve always wanted to see Stevie Nicks in person and she did not disappoint.

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Here’s a simple hummus recipe for you. I decided to put the ‘flavoring’ in the top and keep the hummus itself super basic (mmmm garlic garlic hummus). You don’t HAVE to peel the chickpeas but I read about doing it over at Smitten Kitchen a few months back and am totally hooked. I’ve ruined 2 blenders by overheating them when making hummus and this takes the majority of the work off the blender. Plus, it leaves your hummus so smooth that you’ll never need the store bought stuff again.

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Coriander Hummus

  • 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 cup olive oil

 

  • 1/4 cup coriander seeds, toasted and crushed (instructions below)*
  • 3 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped

 

Peel the chickpeas by lightly pinching the bean and the outer shell should come right off in one big peel. Repeat with the rest of the chickpeas. Transfer the beans, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, water, and olive oil in a blender (or food processor) and blend until smooth. Taste and season with salt, pepper, or more lemon juice. Transfer hummus to a big bowl.

Place the coriander seeds in a saucepan over medium low heat. Stir constituently for about two minutes or until they are fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from heat and immediately transfer to a mortar and pestle to crush. Sprinkle crushed coriander seeds over the hummus followed by sprinkling the cilantro.

Serve with pita and fresh veggies.

 

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Searchable Saturdays

June 8, 2013

       

1. CRAVING /// Have you seen this Roasted Apricot Buttermilk Ice Cream with Almond Streussel from Reclaiming Provincial?! Yup – dayummm! Summer fever has hit me hard and I have began a ridiculously large collection of ice cream and popsicle recipes..

2. CREATING /// The Vanilla Bean posted some wonderful pictures of making lilac sugar. I love using flowers in baking (makes your baked goods so so fancy!) or perfect way to add some extra fragrance in your afternoon tea.

3. INSPIRING /// I don’t usually save ‘inspirational’ quotes but this picture has stuck with me for some time. I often times get worked up over work and have problems letting it go – this picture reminds me that I often times get sucked into a situation and ‘go a little mad’; getting creative with doing something out of the normal helps reminds me I can remove myself from this funk. My way of removing myself is by hiking, baking, cooking, camping, and being out in nature.

4. DREAMING /// My dream is to eventually own my own bakery. Until I have the money and find a wonderful town lacking fresh breads and treats, I can only dream and prep. I’ve contemplating taking some bread baking and pastry classes to help expand my cooking knowledge.

 

Hope you have a wonderful weekend! I’m off to do some thrifting and pick up some fresh produce at the farmer’s market.

 

PS Have you checked out my new logo in the top corner? It’s totally different from all those ‘minimalist’ logos that are out in the food world right now and I love it. I asked Wyatt’s brother to draw me a picture of two vegetables having fun canoeing together and this is what he came up with. It’s a weird mix between a children’s book cover and DIY zine style – I love it!

Poached Plums WIth Vanilla Bean Greek Yogurt & Dulce de Leche

June 4, 2013

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Being an aspiring baker is hard. Sometime I wonder if it’d be easier to just hide the sugar from myself instead of whipping up a batch of 4 dozen cookies on impulse. What single couple needs FOUR DOZEN cookies? I usually eat 1 and a half followed by Wyatt and the dog eating maybe another 4. Such a sad sad waste. This also sometimes ends up being the case with pies – it’s hard to make a portion controlled pie when you have a pan that comes in large and X-large.

Portion control is one of the main reason I’ve been so in love with poaching and roasting fruit lately. It’s super easy and simple to just poach a single plum and add more if someone happens to drop in. No worrying about who I’m going to give an half eaten pie to anymore or if I’ll have to throw away those stale cookies from two weeks ago.

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Have you ever had Dulce de Leche? But have you had it homemade?? It’s an Argentinan caramel that can be made with only one ingredient. Yup, one ingredient. There are about 20 billion (exaggeration) ways to make it according to google. These methods vary from using the microwave, stove-top, or the oven. Even one method is called “The Bomb” in which you put an entire can into the oven and cook (I would cautious against using this method..). I don’t own a microwave so that option was out of the equation for me. I was into doing the stove-top method but many recipes called for anywhere between 2 and 6 hours of stirring and well…I wanted Dulce de Leche like.. now. I chose the oven method because it’s the fastest and most hands off. It’s actually as simple as making a sauce can get – pour everything into an oven proof pan and bake. Boom. Easy.

Lastly, I have to admit something. I could not decide on a name for this recipe. I knew it was going to be long and filled with wonderfully sweet words but I couldn’t settle on which ones. At my day job I have to be very particular and consistent in my writing. This means I’m over being consistent and will do whatever I want on my blog..because well… I can. So call it whatever you want but just remember that in the end it’s a big plate full of bright fruit, irresistible dulce de leche, creamy yogurt, and loaded with spices like vanilla and cinnamon.

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Poached Plums With Vanilla Bean Greek Yogurt & Dulce Le Leche

Serves 2
  • 2 plums, sliced in half and pits removed
  • 1 cup Chobani plain or honey yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise and split in half
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 14 ounce can condensed milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the condensed milk in a glass oven-safe pan and cover with aluminum foil. Then place that pan in a large oven-safe pan. Fill the larger pan with water so that the condensed milk pan is submerged – leave room in the pan for the water to boil but make sure it’s filled up enough that it’s above the milk level.

Cook for an hour to an hour and a half. Check frequently and add more water as needed. Mine took close to 1 1/2 hours but my oven is slow so I’d recommend checking it after an hour. Carefully remove from oven once it turns a light caramel color and stir. Set aside.

Fill a small saucepan with just enough water that the plum halves will be submerged. Add the cinnamon stick and half the vanilla bean. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and add the plums. Let them only cook for about 2 minutes (time will vary depending on ripeness) – enough to soften but not so much that they become mushy. Once poached, remove using a slotted spoon.

Remove the vanilla beans by scraping out the inside of the other half vanilla pod with a knife. Discard the pod and transfer vanilla beans to a small bowl with the Chobani yogurt, cinnamon, and honey. Whisk until combined.

To assemble: Scoop a dollop of yogurt over the plums and drizzle with dulce le leche.

If the dulce le leche has hardened then use a double boiler to re-melt.

 

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