Ten in 2010

Social networking is awesome. In 2009, I made a lot of new friends through Twitter and Facebook and blogs. One friend, Lori of RecipeGirl, with the support and encouragement of Twitter friends has started a challenge for the new year. One quick side note. I’ve met Lori in person. She is beautiful both on the inside and outside. She was actually one of my tablemates that encouraged me to ask Rocco DiSpirito out. 😛Lori’s challenge is Ten in 2010: Ten Weeks to Healthy in 2010. I’m always up for joining groups and have some goals I want to reach this year, so I jumped right in. It’s so open and really there are no rules. You pick your own goals. As of this writing, there are over 230 participants from all over the world. See the list of participants HERE. Anyone can join! You should too!

My Goals

  • Lose my vacation/holiday weight gain. Really it’s mostly holiday. I didn’t really gain anything on vacation. I think wearing a bathing suit every day kept me motivated. I gained an embarrassing number of pounds since I returned home smack in the middle of the holiday season.
  • Eat vegan at least 3 days a week. Last year I successfully ate vegan on Tuesdays for my Vegan Tuesdays. Some days easier than others. This year I want to expand it to three days a week, but rotate the days depending on my schedule. There’s nothing like being stuck in the Dallas airport on a Tuesday trying to find vegan food.
  • Participate in the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. Starting on January 1, I’m participating in the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. Check it out! There’s lots of recipes, information, and a meal plan. Once the 21 days are over, I’ll start my 3-days a week vegan eating.
  • Train for my half-marathon. Every year I run a half-marathon, but don’t train for it. This year, because I don’t want to be in pain for a week, I’ve actually decided to train for. I’m pretty fit, but not much of a runner. I may even try trail running this year!
  • Re-commit to yoga. Last June I started attending evening yoga classes, I stopped going in November and want to start up again. It makes me feel great!

I go to the gym very early in the morning before work. I usually just grab a bar and eat it on the way. Here’s a great recipe for you to try. Chia seeds (the same ones as Chia Pets) are a great source of omega fatty acids and contain a bunch of good-for-you minerals and vitamins. They actually have more antioxidents than flaxseed and are an excellent source of dietary fiber.

Raw Chocolate-Chia Energy Bars

From the January 2010 issue of Vegetarian Times.
  • 1 1/2 cups pitted dates
  • 1/3 cup raw unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup whole chia seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup raw slivered almonds
  1. Purée dates in a food processor until a thick paste forms. Add cocoa, chia, and extracts. Pulse until all ingredients are combined. Add almonds and pulse until nuts are chopped and well-distributed.
  2. Place a piece of parchment paper on work surface and transfer date mixture to it. Using your hands, press mixture into a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle. Wrap tightly and chill overnight.
  3. Unwrap block and cut into 8 bars.

Nutrition: 195 calories, 5 grams of protein, 8 grams of total fat, 7 grams of fiber.


Tahitian Vanilla Bean Star Cookies and Eggnog Ice Cream

You probably all don’t know this, but I just got back from vacation. 😛 And on this vacation I bought vanilla beans. A lot of vanilla beans. Although most of the beans I bought came from Taha’a, French Polynesia, I also bought some in Vava’u, Tonga.

The quality of the Tongan beans doesn’t compare to the Tahitian ones and my Polynesian friends scoffed when I showed them my purchase. Visually  I knew the quality wasn’t there, but they smelled like vanilla and the price was right–10 beans for $5. I figured I could use them when vanilla isn’t the star of a recipe or maybe to make vanilla sugar.

Last Saturday, I invited my intrepid pastry sous-chef Diego over to help me get back into the post-vacation baking swing of things. When I asked him what he wanted to bake, he told me ice cream. Okay, not really baking–but I heart ice cream so all is good. We flipped through The Perfect Scoop looking for a recipe I hadn’t made and had all the ingredients. We came upon Eggnog Ice Cream. Not only did it meet my criteria, it was also seasonally appropriate. Score!

{I realize Diego is holding a duster and not a whisk in the above picture, but he also likes to clean in addition to baking.}

The original  recipe calls for vanilla extract, but I decided to test out my Tongan beans and used two of them instead. The ice cream is wonderful. Not only is it perfectly creamy, it packs a punch of flavor with the perfect combination of vanilla, nutmeg, and booze. Oh, yes–not only do I heart ice cream, I heart boozy ice cream most of all {see: Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream, Tiramisù Ice Cream, Prune-Armagnac Ice Cream}.

You can find the recipe for Eggnog Ice Cream HERE. Note: To sub the vanilla beans, I scraped the seeds into the sugar and rubbed them with my fingers until the sugar was moist and fragnant. I then added the milk and 1/2 the cream into a medium saucepan with the sugar and vanilla seeds and pods. Once heated, I let it seep for 30 minutes and then proceeded with recipe as written.

I paired the ice cream with a cookie in which vanilla beans are the star (ha ha) of the show: Tahitian Vanilla Bean Star Cookies. The recipe comes from the Sunset Magazine 2009 Holiday Cookbook special issue and doesn’t specify what type of bean, so use what ever type you have on hand.

The cookies are simple butter cookies with the ingenious addition of a vanilla bean. No need to refrigerate before rolling and cutting, so if you are a speedy baker you can have cookies in less than an hour. {I am not a speedy baker}. I may change the name of these cookies to Tahitian Vanilla Bean Bliss Bites. These are now my go to roll and cut sugar/butter cookies. YUM.

You can find the recipe for Vanilla-bean Cookies HERE. {Note: I also used the scrape seeds directly into sugar and rub method here. I find this a better method for mixing the seeds into the sugar.}

Spanish White Beans with Squash and Red Pepper Pilaf

{This is my Vegan Tuesday post, which obviously is late this week. It’s been one of those crazy weeks. Vacation in exactly 3 weeks, can’t wait.}

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Both of these recipes came from the very.last.issue. of Gourmet and both are naturally vegan. Both quick (even the prep time for the butternut squash–either I’m getting good or there was magic in the air), I came home from work at 6:30 pm, started the pilaf, then moved on to the beans, and finished both in time for my 8 pm yoga class. You’re supposed to add spinach to the beans, but I didn’t have any.

Click HERE for the Spanish Beans recipe and click HERE for the Squash & Red Pepper Pilaf recipe.

Vegan Creamy Pumpkin and Cashew Curry Pizza

In a couple weeks I’m hosting a pizza get-together. It’s a house re-warming party :P. I’ve invited friends to bring their favorite toppings and I’ll have  different types of dough and sauces. I’m making the standard Mark Bittman pizza dough, a whole-wheat version of the same, the semolina bread version from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. I’ve made all of them before, so I know they work and work well. I’ve been wanting to try the Quick Beer Pizza Dough from the King Arthur Flour catalog for awhile and thought it would be great for the party.

When I was in San Francisco last month, I had lunch with one of my bestest friends from high school, Melissa, and her sweet pea of a daughter, Sam. Melissa took me to Zante Pizza & Indian Cuisine in the Mission District for vegetarian Indian Pizza. I’ve been craving Indian pizza since then and wanted to try the beer dough before using it for the party. I found a recipe for Creamy Pumpkin and Cashew Curry in the October 2009 issue of bon appetit and thought it would be a perfect topping for a pizza on Vegan Tuesday.

I liked making the curry because it was the first time I used a whole pumpkin in cooking/baking, the first time I used curry leaves, and I love the spices/smells of Indian cuisine. What I didn’t like was the coconut cream. It made the curry too sweet and even adding curry powder and more spices didn’t cut the sweetness. I should have went with my first though which was not to use the cream or to only use 1/2 the amount.  I now have a 1/2 bottle of coconut cream. I guess I will have to have a piña colada party. 😛

The pizza dough came together quickly. I divided it into 5 ounce portions, using one for my pizza and freezing the rest. The dough was delicious. Baked up beautifully and the beer flavor was subtle. I was a bit worried about that because I was worried the stout I used may have been too intense.

You can find the recipe for the Creamy Pumpkin and Cashew Curry HERE.

You can find the recipe for Quick Beer Pizza Dough HERE.

Cacao Nib Gelato

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Oh, I had trouble with this ice cream. Serious trouble. When I first read the recipe in the September 2009 issue of bon appetit I knew I had to make it. I tweeted about it with Nancy of The Dogs Eat the Crumbs and we decided to churn it together. The cream base is seeped with cacao nibs and a vanilla bean  so the  flavor is intense, very intense {but in a good way}. Once the base is reheated, egg yolks added, and cooked to just the right consistency it is chilled in the refrigerator overnight.

This is where my trouble started. I churned the gelato the next morning and everything seemed fine. I placed it in the freezer and went along my merry way. The next day, I notice a puddle of water in my water dispenser. I open my freezer and it’s warm. The ice in the ice maker was melting, food stuff was thawing, and my lovely lovely gelato was back in its unchurned form.

I assume I didn’t close the freezer door all the way, stick the gelato base in the refrigerator, and turn the temp on the freezer super low. I also place a cup with water in the freezer to test if it is working.  The next morning I open up the freezer and everything is frozen. Yay! I rechurn the gelato and stick it back in the freezer. But no, my freezer/refrigerator was only pretending to work. Yes, my gelato was back in it’s unchurned form. I teary-eyed threw it away {along with all of the other contents} and called the repairperson.

Luckily, my refrigerator just needed a new motherboard which was only $150 for parts & labor. {fyi: if you have a GE Profile, they are notorious for motherboards conking out soon after the 5 year warranty expires. My refrig is 6 years old}. Once everything was nice and chilly, I made the gelato base again. I had to, this is the best tasting chocolate ice cream. I really had no choice. It really is that good.

You can find the recipe HERE.

{I came back to add, after I scheduled this post: I don’t think I expressed my love for this gelato enough. It is heaven. Pure Heaven. The chocolate flavor is clean and slightly bitter like good chocolate should be. Man. I think I may have to make another batch.}