Thursday, August 29, 2013

Inspiration in the form of quiche

Where has the summer gone? I've done a not so great job at maintaining this blog throughout the summer, but hey, that's what they say right? "Make hay while the sun shines."

While I haven't made any hay this summer, I've been working, hiking, running and trying to enjoy those small moments of relaxation whenever possible. And, most recently, I've been making quiche. Don't worry, it's vegan, but not hay is involved. I checked up on Oh She Glows yesterday and when I noticed her recipe for quiche, a light bulb went off in my head and I had almost all of the necessary ingredients on hand to adapt from her recipe.

I pretty much threw together a flour-based crust and used pumpkin puree instead of flax eggs in my dough. I also threw in a sprinkle of fresh Italian parsley and a bit more water. Angela's recipe features a gluten-free crust, but I didn't have all of those ingredients on-hand and I was trying to keep it thrifty! I also realized I was all out of nutritional yeast flakes (Yikes! How did that happen?), but there was a bag of Daiya mozzarella shreds in my fridge and an opened bag of Phoney Baloney's coconut bacon that I needed to use that came to the rescue. Angela's tofu-based quiche features fresh herbs, tomato, mushroom and spinach.

I made my from-scratch version with broccoli subbed in for the mushrooms, my flour-based crust with pumpkin purée for an emulsifier instead of the flax eggs, threw in the Daiya mozzarella shreds & coconut bacon, pumpkin purée, fresh parsley and a splash of organic golden balsamic vinegar for some added acidity. I sautéed scallions, garlic, fresh spinach, garlic, salt, pepper, Italian herbs and the broccoli in the cast iron skillet before adding it to the tofu mixture. And, the quiche is topped off with more Daiya mozzarella shreds and Roma tomato slices. I baked mine for a little less time than the Oh She Glows recipe, making sure that my crust didn't get too browned.

Have a slice and enjoy the leftovers with this wonderful, tasty vegan quiche!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Red, White & Blue and Beans Too!

Happy Fourth of July! I hope you are finding fun, vegan-friendly ways to celebrate!

Each month, the hosts at the RV park next to my house hold a potluck and this one fell on the day before Independence Day. I wanted to make a fun red, white and blue dish, that was of course vegan.

I thought about making a pudding pie, with vanilla pudding, blueberries and strawberries to get my red, white and blue fix, but I didn't want to be face with having to take any leftover dessert home. I'm trying to stay healthy this summer! That's when I remembered the recipe for a black bean dip that was given to me by a friend a few years ago during the Christmas holiday! My idea soon came together, with salsa for the red, blue corn tortilla chips for the blue, and smoky white bean dip for the white!

Red, White & Blue

I tweaked the recipe just a little bit here and there and I have to say, this dip is good! I'd especially recommend using big, yummy blue corn tortilla chips for the dipping part.

I topped a jar of store-bought salsa with fresh diced tomatoes, because I haven't had much time to work in the kitchen, so store-bought was the quickest, easiest root for me to take to get everything done before the potluck. I like to make the bean dip, whether you're using black or white beans, the night before to let it sit in the fridge overnight to really give the lime, cumin, garlic and smoky paprika flavors a boost! This dip comes together in a matter of minutes after it's whirled to a delicious smooth texture in the food processor.

White beans and smoked paprika are a perfect pairing of flavors.
Smoky White Bean Dip
• 1 16 oz. can of white beans
• 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
• 1-2 cloves of garlic (I go with about 2 or 2 1/2, because I REALLY like garlic!)
• juice of one lime, or juice of 1/2 a lime if it's a really big lime and add more if you want more of a lime taste.
• salt & pepper to taste
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• a dash of chili powder, cayenne pepper and coriander (These are optional, but highly recommended. This mix of spices and herbs really help bring out that smoky flavor and compliments the white beans well!)
• a healthy dash of smoked paprika, plus another sprinkle for garnish

This dip is also great topped with fresh cilantro, I just didn't have any on hand in the kitchen.

- Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth.
-Garnish with another sprinkle of smoked paprika, serve along with blue corn tortilla chips and salsa.

Again, Happy Independence Day and be sure to rock some red, white & blue and beans too!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Vegan in the Middle of Nowhere hits the road!

Where has the time gone? I haven't written a new post in what seems like ages! I've been doing a lot of work, driving and traveling for work and leisure.

After two tremendously busy summer seasons, I've made it a goal to hit the places I've wanted to visit since I've moved out West, and some even before that!

Vegan in the Middle of Nowhere has been hitting the road the past few weekends and I've been wanting to share my adventures on the blog, because of course I needed to eat and finding vegan-friendly options along the way is just part of the fun.

Last month, on May 19, I completed my second half-marathon in Portland, Oregon and this post is a collection of eats, running photos and odds and ends to get my mini-travel series launched.

Sit back, grab a vegan cocktail and travel along with me as I explore some new places, meet some new faces or have Dodger in the backseat of my new ride wondering when the next treat stop is!

First we made a stop in Wallace, Idaho. It is an interesting funky little place...
The places featured in this Portland post include:
• Hopworks Urban Brewery
• Homegrown Smoker (and the North Portland food cart pod at the Mississippi Marketplace)
• Dovetail Bakery
• Good 'ol Trader Joe's
• Voodoo Doughnut

Hopworks Urban Brewery
This was our first stop on our Portland adventure and we got there hungry and ready for a beer after more than 12 hours in the car from Montana. We stopped at the location on SE Powell Boulevard and there's also the Hopworks Bike Bar on N. Williams Avenue. This place was the best! I followed the arrow leading me to the pub and ordered the HUB Lager off of the HUGE list of beer options. See below! For dinner, I ordered the Tofu Po Boy, which the menu describes as "grilled marinated tofu and Creole sauce, layered with lettuce, tomatoes, pickle, onion and cabbage mix." The sandwich is also served on a grilled Italian roll brushed with garlic oil. And, at $9.50, I described the Tofu Po Boy as HUGE, affordable and delicious with just the right amount of spice.

Homegrown Smoker (and the North Portland food cart pod at the Mississippi Marketplace)
Another great part of Portland is the chances I had to meet up with old college friends. My friend Renee has gotten married to her husband Zach, had their adorable daughter Madeline and just moved from Rhode Island all the way to Issaquah, Washington! Her tiny family made the three-hour drive down to Portland to meet me for lunch! I scouted out a place that had a selection of dining options and came up with the North Portland food cart pod at the Mississippi Marketplace. I could have spent an entire day walking up and down Mississippi Avenue amongst the bright orange poppies, on-and-off-again rain and city views. After some deliberation, because there are several vegan options at the 10 carts that make up the food cart pod, I settled on the Homegrown Smoker. I am so happy I chose to eat at this green food cart with smells of BBQ and sweet corn bread wafting out of it. Here, I ordered the side sampler place and for $7 I got another large plate of food. I went with a double order of mac-nocheese (this was so, so, so, so good! If you go to Portland, please try this dish!), stewed greens, chipotle coleslaw and a piece of cornbread that comes along with the sampler plate. Renee, Zach, Madeline and me sat under the tent in plastic chairs, ate and caught up about the last four or five years.
On a side note, does anyone else dip their vegan mac & cheese in ketchup? I love it.

Dovetail Bakery
We made a short stop at Dovetail Bakery later that afternoon and because we arrived later in the day, the selection was kind of limited. I was pretty happy with my trail mix cookie though. It was chewy and full of dried fruit, seeds and nuts. Yum! Next time I want to try a cinnamon roll though.

Rock 'N' Roll Half Marathon - Portland
The night before the race, we stopped at Trader Joe's to grab a quick dinner. I stuck with a simple meal of Trader Joe's strawberry soy yogurt and pb&j with bananas for added potassium, because my stomach has issues before long runs, especially before a half-marathon. I thought by sticking with what I know, my stomach wouldn't freak out as much.

We finished, but I didn't end up drinking my finish line beer because of my upset stomach issues.

Voodoo Doughnut
We finished off our Sunday fun day in Portland with a trip to Voodoo Doughnut! I don't even really like doughnuts all that much and can't even remember the last time I ate a doughnut. I think it may have even been before I started a vegan lifestyle more than 10 years ago! But, after running 13.1 miles, vegan doughnuts sounded so tempting. We earned our doughnuts! We ended up going to Voodoo Doughnut Too because the line at the original location was out the door and down the street. The line at Voodoo Too was limited to the parking lot when we pulled up. Let the photos below do all the talking and take you on a tasty doughnut trip through heaven. It's true my friends, good things come in pink boxes!

We headed back to Montana bright and early Monday morning, so we enjoyed a home-cooked meal with some Portland folks for dinner on Sunday night.

Stay tuned to see the next stop on the road for Vegan in the Middle of Nowhere!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Kicking off the weekend with plant protein!

I'm starting my Memorial Day weekend with a plant protein packed smoothie using a packet of 22 Days Nutrition brand plant-based protein powder that came in this month's Vegan Cuts Snack Box. A packet came in last month's box too, but I still haven't had a chance to try it, but since I am spending this Memorial Day weekend with more work and not much play, I figured it'd be a great opportunity to try the vanilla-flavored powder that boasts 22 grams of protein per serving!

There's my packet of 22 Days Plan Protein Powder mixed in with all the other wonderful treats in this month's Vegan Cuts Snack Box!
I'm not complaining too much though, because I spent last weekend exploring Portland, Oregon, also known as Vegan Mecca! I ran a half-marathon this past Sunday and that's why we made the trip, but I also had the chance to see a few college friends on Saturday and Sunday too. Portland is beautiful, my friends are doing well for themselves and I finished my half with a slower time than my last finish time of 2:34. But, with 2:56 on the record books for this race and the fact that I haven't been running nearly as much as I was last summer, I'm happy I finished within my goal of under 3 hours.

The ingredients in the 22 Days protein powder are a refreshing blend of organic fruits and vegetables with everything from acai berry to tomatoes included in the blend. It also comes with 5,000 mg of organic flax seed per serving. Not to mention, this protein powder is organic, gluten free, GMO free and of course, vegan! I can't wait to try the next packet in a smoothie before a workout later this week.

Check out my recipe for the Morning Plant Protein Smoothie below and I hope to upload more photos of Portland soon as a separate blog entry!

I couldn't wait to take a drink of this green plant protein packed beast of a smoothie!

Morning Plant Protein Smoothie
(makes enough for two smaller smoothies)

• 1 cup frozen watermelon chunks
• 2 cups of fresh water
• 1 banana, peeled and sliced
• 1 Fuji apple, sliced into small chunks (I left the skin on my apple, but feel free to peel it, if it's not your thing.)
• 1 packet vanilla 22 Days Nutrition Plant Protein Power
• 1 cup baby kale, or greens of your choice and use organic if possible
• about 1 teaspoon of ginger
• 1/2 cup to 1 cup ice cubes
• more fresh fruit of your choice to top your smoothie, I used fresh strawberries and really ripe mango and they tasted delicious with the sweet watermelon and slight hints of vanilla and ginger.

- Pour 1 1/2 cups of water into a blender along with the frozen watermelon chunks, banana, apple, ginger and contents of the protein powder packet and blend thoroughly.
- Throw the baby kale, or greens of your choice, in the blender next with the ice cubes and remaining 1/2 cup of water and blend for a good minute-and-a-half to two minutes to assure that the greens are broken down and blended well.
- Top your smoothie with fresh fruit of your choice, or even some chia seeds, flax, hemp hearts or other tasty toppers!

Look at this cute bicycle on a street in rainy Portland! More on that later...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Zesty Mexi Chia Cheese

I ran out of my Wayfare We Can't Say It's Cheese in Mexi Cheddar flavor the other night, but I've been using the pack of tortillas I bought last week for quick dinner dishes to finish them up. That was my plan for tonight's dinner too.

I didn't want to go to the store and I wanted to try something new in terms of vegan cheese sauce. There's nothing better than that slightly spicy, zesty taste that comes along with Wayfare's Mexi Cheddar cheese spread. I've also read the label countless times, wondering how they created something so good. It's also a Made in Montana product! Wayfare We Can't Say It's Cheese spread is mainly oat-based and the first ingredients are prepared oats, made with water. I've also been looking around at chia seed-based vegan cheese sauces, like the Chia Cheeze Sauce made by Heidi Ho Veganics. I might just have to order myself a jar soon!

After a few Google and Pinterest searches, I also found this recipe for "Chia Chili Cheese." Since I'm avoiding making a trip to the grocery store, I looked over the recipe for Chia Chili Cheese on and it starts off by mixing 2 tablespoons of chia seeds in 1/2 cup water and letting the chia seeds "gel" for about 10 minutes. I have water and I have chia seeds. I also have rolled oats in my pantry, so I got out my small food processor, a string of ingredients both fresh and in the pantry and got to making my own Zesty Mexi Chia Cheese. Prepared oatmeal and chia seeds help thicken the sauce and the nooch adds that cheesy cheddary flavor you want with your dinner.

Think of this cheesy sauce as part queso to scoop up with your tortilla chips, part thick cheesy goodness and a great addition to your Mexican-themed dishes or something to make quick and bring along to your next get-together. It should last a few days stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Another great aspect of this recipe is that you can tweak the saltiness and spiciness to your taste level! I put my smoked paprika, liquid smoke and sriracha sauce to use with this cheese sauce.

Yesterday may have been Cinco de Mayo, but that doesn't mean the buck has to stop there!

Zesty Mexi Chia Cheese

• 2 tablespoons chia seeds mixed with 1/2 cup water, set aside and let "gel" for at least 10 minutes
• 2 tablespoons diced onion
• 2 tablespoons salsa
• 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
• 1/4 to 1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes (Start with 1/4 cup and add more nutritional yeast flakes if you want a "cheesier" taste.)
• spring of sea salt
• sprinkle of smoked paprika
• a few dashes of liquid smoke
• sriracha sauce to taste
• 3/4 to 1 cup prepared oatmeal (using 1/2 cup rolled oats mixed with 1/2 to 3/4 cup water)
• cilantro for garnish (optional)

- How easy is this? Once your chia seeds and water mixture have "gelled" combine the rest of the ingredients and the prepared oatmeal with the chia seed/water mixture in a food processor or high powered blender and process until everything is blended together. Add more nutritional yeast, sriracha sauce, salt, or liquid smoke to meet your taste preferences.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Make Your Own Almond Butter

Do you have two cups of almonds, a food processor or high speed blender and about 20 to 30 minutes to spare?

If so, you can easily make your own almond butter using simple steps and ingredients that you can count on one hand.

I buy the three-pound bag of whole almonds at Costco, which equals out to be about nine cups per bag. I took two cups of almonds, lightly roasted them in the toaster oven and then switched them over to my food processor with a pinch of sea salt and a healthy sprinkle of cinnamon, stood by, scrapped down the sides of the container and watched my whole almonds turn into all-natural, preservative-free creamy almond butter.

By lightly roasting your almonds, they break down a little quicker in the food processor because they're already warm. You will have to stand by the food processor with a spoon or a spatula and scrape down the sides of the bowl, but it's totally worth it! The sea salt and cinnamon help bring out the flavor of this simple almond butter.

Make the recipe your own by adding a mixture of nuts, raw cacao nibs or maple syrup. I added maple syrup to my last batch and it turned out great, but I had to mix it in the food processor a little bit longer to get the almond butter back to a really creamy consistency.

Here's my recipe for Three Ingredient Almond Butter. Enjoy!

Three Ingredient Almond Butter
(makes about 10 to 12 oz. of creamy almond butter)

• 2 cups whole almonds, lightly roasted
• a pinch of sea salt
• a sprinkle of cinnamon

- Lightly roast your almonds in the toaster oven or the oven for about 4 minutes, until just lightly browned.

- Place the almonds, a pinch of sea salt and the cinnamon in the bowl of your food processor or high speed blender and turn on your machine. Depending on what food processor or blender you're using, it can take anywhere from 12 to 20 minutes for the almonds to break down and turn into a smooth mixture. If you have a high speed blender, like a Vitamix, it probably won't take as long.

- Store the almond butter in a sealed container at room temperature, but not for too long because this delicious mixture is free of preservatives. Your almond butter might harden up some if you place it in the fridge. I store my almond butter in an 8 oz. mason jar! Mason jars make everything look better (and cute).

Use on an almond butter and banana sandwich, on top of your morning bowl of oatmeal, add a spoonful to your smoothie or enjoy right out of the jar.

Check back later this week to see what else to do with your home made almond butter, maybe something like a healthy dessert!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Making something into something else A.K.A. Potluck Burritos

Oh my gosh, where have the past two weeks gone? Work is getting busier and busier and time seems to  be flying by, even though the daylight hours are slowly getting longer and longer (thank goodness)!

Tonight I wanted to do a quick post about how to make one thing into another, which I know a lot of us try to do with leftovers or that poor half-eaten cucumber or head of lettuce sitting in the refrigerator. That is a "cheese stands alone" scenario if I've ever seen one. Burritos, wraps, salads and sandwiches are ALL easy options to turn one leftover meal here and a half-eaten vegetable there into one meal that is all that and the kitchen sink.

Yesterday I tasted some of the best guacamole that I've ever had the pleasure of snacking on. It was at a baby shower and this guacamole was more thin than chunky, which I really don't do when I make my own, but it had the best combination of lime juice, heat, onions, cilantro and avocados. It was green heaven on a crispy corn tortilla. I took some of that magical guacamole home with me and with some extra veggies made a taco salad. It was a pretty decent taco salad in flavor, color and size, enough that I had leftover salad as well. That's when I decided to go out and buy some tortillas tonight along with one of my go-to favorite non-dairy cheese substitutes, Wayfare We Can't Say It's Cheese spread in the Mexi Cheddar flavor. The local grocery store in West Yellowstone carries a variety of Wayfare products and the company is based just 90 miles down the road in Bozeman, Montana. I love supporting Made in Montana companies as well as the great message their company promotes to the rest of the world swirled in with that lovely soy-free vegan cheesy goodness in the We Can't Say It's Cheese spread! I took my Mexi Cheddar spread, some salsa, leftover black beans from one of last week's taco nights at another friend's house, my taco salad and guacamole and some sweet & spicy banana pepper rings and rolled up a Potluck Burrito for dinner.

The Potluck Burrito could easily translate into Potluck Quesadillas, Potluck Tacos, Potluck Sandwiches or Potluck Salad. The recipe is pretty easy – Take what you have in the kitchen or the leftover fragments of taco night (or Greek night, or Italian night) and place them in a tortilla, between two pieces of bread, on a bed of green spinach or even into a mystery casserole or quiche, toast, cook, grill, bake or toss and enjoy!

Made right here in Montana

Bright, fresh taco salad topped with a generous spoonful of guac!

You don't need to be going to a social gathering for an excuse to have a potluck for one! I try to waste as little food as possible and in turn have many potlucks for dinner. As we get closer and closer to summer and more work paired with more play, it is a good idea to even make yourself a list of meal options that you can make out of similar ingredients. This can help your budget from a monetary standpoint as well as your limited amount of time because sometimes we don't want to be in the kitchen cooking when we could be outside hiking, biking, running or lounging on a blanket in the sun. Like I said, these past two weeks have flown by and I can already tell that May is going to be another busy month of work and play.

It is pretty easy to master the art of making something into something else. So don't forget to ask yourself, "What's in my fridge that I can save from throwing away?"