Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Snack Box Surprise

I know I’ve referenced that feeling you get on Christmas morning when I talked about the Bountiful Baskets deliveries we get here locally every two weeks. Guess what, I’m going to reference that feeling again.

After a few months of looking at the Vegan Cuts website and the monthly snack box that they have, filled to the brim with vegan snacks, I decided to sign up. I admit that the cute product description s and the hearts and images of chocolate that filled their newsletter on Valentine’s Day may have influenced my decision too.

It’s pretty simple and easy to sign up. For $19.95 a month, Vegan Cuts will send you the monthly Snack Box, which includes Priority shipping. Personally, I think it’s a pretty good deal, taking into consideration that several full-size products were included in the box as well as a few smaller specialty-type items.

The anticipation built as I received an e-mail letting me know that my box had shipped from somewhere near Syracuse, New York. It was already at the sorting facility in Billings, Montana last night and by noon today, that box filled with vegan goodies had arrived at my local post office. I was thrilled to go pick it up after work. It was pretty much like Christmas morning at the end of February. Plus, it's fun to get mail when you're a Vegan in the Middle of Nowhere.
The contents of my first Vegan Cuts Snack Box!

 Here’s what was included in this month’s snack box:

- Dang brand toasted coconut chips

I opened these first. They tasted so good after an hour-long workout and it says on the back of the bag that Dan is the name of the name of the owner’s (?) mother and that she grew up in Thailand, where coconuts and smiles grow wild. How could I resist not trying these crispy little shreds of coconut with the consistency of a chip and the sweetness of a coconut? They still have that slightly chewy texture to them that coconut has too! The ingredients are also simple – just coconut, sugar and salt.

These were dang good!
- 3 packets of ticolino from Serengeti Tea Company and a glossy sheet explaining all of their different flavors

- Surf Sweets organic fruity hearts in watermelon and cherry flavors

- A tube of the Merry Hempsters Vegan Hemp Balm in Spearmint flavor

I have used this lip balm for years and was overjoyed to have it come back into my life. It was one of the first things that caught my eye when I opened up my box!

- a BudiBar Superfood Bar in Star Chai flavor

I have never heard of this product before this afternoon, but it sure does look like an interesting bar and it’s got some weight to it too at more than 2 oz. I can’t wait to try it since it contains good stuff like chocolate liquor and chia seeds!

Behold, a BudiBar.

- a full-size PureFit nutrition bar in peanut butter chocolate chip flavor

Let me just say right now that I already know what bar I’ll be for some pre-workout fuel before my next run! It doesn’t get much better than peanut butter and chocolate chips. I could eat that classic combo for the rest of my life.

- one square of Righteously Raw divine mind chocolate

This tiny square of chocolate boasts 82% raw cacao and that it’s anti-oxidant rich and low glycemic. Time to get righteous here pretty soon.

- an individual-sized bag of Simply 7 Sea Salt Lentil Chips

I like lentils and with only seven ingredients, I am interested in giving these bite-sized chips a try.

- A Heart of Cherry chocolate wrapped in red foil from Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates

I already mentioned that those cute hearts are what helped motivate me to get a snack box in the first place and I don’t regret it!

- a message from Vegan Cuts founders Jill & John, letting me know that I’ll find a selection of treats from brands they love and a Vegan Cuts sticker

How sweet!

Vegan Cuts invites you to take a photo of the contents of your snack box when it arrives each month and share it on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I already shared my on Instagram as soon as I got home, opened it and took everything out to inspect.

I suggest that you stop by the Vegan Cuts website,, to learn more about their company and their mission as well as great deals on new and up and coming vegan products as well as classics like Justins Nut Butter and packs of Dandies Vegan Marshmallows.

I thought it would be fun to feature a short synopsis about the snack box program, a lineup of featured products and some short reviews and to share the love of a company that I support with all of you. I haven’t really written a review in quite a long time. I used to visit different restaurants and eateries near my university in southern New Hampshire and review the vegan menu items that they featured. That was so much fun and it feels good to write a review every once in awhile and sharing thoughts and ideas with people.

Just like that feeling you get on Christmas morning...
I have definitely noticed that monthly mail order programs are a rising trend. There are monthly boxes out there filled with anything from beauty products and more food options to companies that make similar boxes for our canine companions. In a time when snail mail is seemingly going out of style and the United States Postal Service is struggling with operating costs, it’s refreshing to see that snail mail is coming back into style!

(Disclaimer: I signed up for the Vegan Cuts Snack Box for the first time this month and paid the $19.95 price for the snack box with the following products. I am in no way affiliated with any of the companies or brands of the items in my box or Vegan Cuts.)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The 'After' Shot

As promised, a photo of the Chia Seed Breakfast Bowl after it had a chance to thicken up in the fridge overnight!

This was good and I think I'll be adding in some dried cranberries and organic fruit & nut granola to tomorrow's serving of chia seed goodness. This makes enough for two people, or for a few servings if you're eating it solo.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cha Cha Cha Chia Seeds!

Tonight after my Pilates/yoga/bootcamp combo class I had this surge of extra energy and decided to take a few minutes to get creative in the kitchen. I didn't want to make anything too complicated, in case my surge of energy decided to pass quickly.

Oh She Glows informs readers that the site features crowd-pleasing vegan recipes, and Angela, the mastermind behind all these delicious recipes isn’t lying!

I have made granola adapted using one of her recipes and I’ve already talked about her delicious Vegan Cheeze Sauce earlier this month in my Cheezy Three Green Bake recipe.

As I’ve been using Blogger more and more to maintain the Vegan in the Middle of Nowhere blog, I’ve also started to build a reading list, and it’s a little like Christmas morning to check what new recipes and features are up on my selection of vegan blogs right there in one place. It’s brilliant.

On Monday morning I clicked on the new Oh She Glows post about chia seeds right away and haven’t stopped thinking about the recipe for the Chia Seed Breakfast Bowl since. Pair that with the overstock of ripening bananas in my kitchen and that I just happened to purchase chia seeds for the very first time on my last shopping run to Bozeman and it was a given that I had to try this recipe. The Community Food Co-Op, located on West Main Street in Bozeman, stocks chia seeds in their bulk section and the staff is always kind and friendly whenever I’m searching the shelves full of tempting items like tea, coffee beans, granola, dried fruit and fun, nutritious stuff like chia seeds!
The ingredient lineup for the Chia Seed Breakfast Bowl from Oh She Glows

Here’s the link to the Chia Seed Breakfast Bowl recipe over at Oh She Glows,  I’d suggest that you give it a try for a quick, nutritious and delicious breakfast option, or even as a midnight snack. The chia seeds thicken and gel, almost like a flax seed “egg” that you would use in vegan baking recipes. The mixture of chia seeds, bananas, almond milk and other ingredients forms a thickness very similar to pudding after it is refrigerated for a few hours or overnight. The tiny black seeds also have a slight crunch and remind me of tapioca, or drinking a yummy glass of bubble tea. And don’t be fooled by their tiny size, these crunchy little numbers pack a powerful punch of omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber. Gotta love those heath benefits!
Mashed bananas, almond milk, vanilla, cinnamon and chia seeds ready to all be mixed together!

Angela’s recipe has suggestions for toppings and in the list initial ingredients, she uses cinnamon. I also added in a few dashes of nutmeg and a generous tablespoon of stevia to my Chia Seed Breakfast Bowl mixture for some added sweetness. Stevia is naturally calorie free and derived from plants.

I'll post a photo of my Chia Seed Breakfast Bowl up on the blog tomorrow after the mixture has had time to sit in the fridge overnight.

The "before" photo
Go get creative in the kitchen with chia seeds soon!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Deep Dish Pizza Pie

I’m a firm believer that if you can’t find what you want, try making your own. I’m also lover of all things pizza.

Each pie is incredibly customizable to your own taste preferences and they come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, whether it is a small circle or a large rectangle. The crust can be thing and crispy, New York style or even made from raw ingredients and eaten totally fresh.

Tonight, deep dish pizza pie is stealing the spotlight for this blog post. This pie comes complete with a hearty, almost buttery crust, layers of sauce, creamy and garlicky tofu basil ricotta and enough toppings to perhaps make even the Greeks a little jealous that they didn’t create this doughy wonder kid of Italian origins.

These pies were also cooked in a large cast iron skillet, making for the “icing on the cake” so to say. (More like the “toppings on the pie.”) This dough is thick and rises nicely in the skillet, forming the hearty crust that I am talking about. I also use Fleischmann's RapidRise Yeast, which significantly reduces the amount of time that the dough needs to rise before it’s ready to be rolled out.

I made enough dough and prepped my toppings for two pies, but we only needed one at last Thursday’s single gals get-together. Instead of freezing the extra dough, I cooked up another pizza last night and have enough leftovers to cover dinner for the next few days.

I started out my first Greek-themed pizza pie with the dough rolled out and fitted in the cast iron skillet, then spread out enough marinara sauce to cover it, added tomato slices and slivers of sun dried tomatoes. Next came the Greek Kalamata olives, mushroom slices and a layer of tofu basil ricotta. I topped the whole thing off with chopped organic baby spinach and a sprinkle of Italian herbs and garlic & herb seasoning.

While reading through many, many websites with directions on how to bake in a cast iron skillet, I found that several of the sites suggest that you heat up the whole pizza in the skillet over a burner for a few minutes before sticking it in the oven to bake. This usually works on my gas range, but the bottom of the pizza got slightly burned when I used a different stovetop on Thursday night. Trial and error is all part of cooking though. The pizza was plenty to feed four hungry women and there was still a small piece left in the skillet. My friends were nice and didn’t make me feel too bad that I had slightly burned our dinner. They were also all very excited and enthusiastic to try a vegan version of pizza!

Last night I pretty much made the same version of pizza with the toppings having a delicious Greek theme, except I added fresh pieces of broccoli and gardein chick’n to the mix. Gardein chick’n products taste so similar to the actual thing that it always catches me off guard a little bit. The broccoli added a fresh flavor alongside the baby spinach an Gardein chick’n on top of the pizza. The nutritional yeast that is called for in The Post Punk Kitchen’s tofu basil ricotta recipe also helps to capture that cheezy flavor that you want when you bite into a slice of pizza. The extra firm tofu holds up well in the oven, the chopped fresh basil is simply magnificent for the taste buds and the fresh garlic ties everything together when greeted with Italian herbs and the sun dried tomatoes and olives. Like I said, the Greeks may even be a little jealous, maybe of your dinner too. The tofu basil ricotta recipe that I used is also available in “Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook,” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. If you don’t already own a copy of this cookbook, run out and buy one immediately. It is packed with tons of delicious and creative recipes that will knock your socks off.

I came up with the dough recipe for this deep dish pie after a few trials and errors in the kitchen over the past six months and this one works the best. The cook time is usually about 17 minutes in a hot oven preheated to 450°F degrees, but last night the crust took a few more minutes than usual to get that nice brown and slightly crispy look to it that I like. If your pie is taking longer, simply take it out of the oven using oven mitts (remember than the skillet handle will be HOT!) and gently lift up an edge of the crust with a spatula to check how much the bottom of the pizza has browned. Another three to five minutes back in the oven usually does the trick.

Pizza dough recipe:
(This recipe makes enough for two 12” pizzas. You can cut the recipe in half if you only want to make enough dough for one pizza.)

- 2 packets of Fleischmann's RapidRise Yeast
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar, or sugar if you don’t have agave nectar on hand
- 1 3/4 to 2 cups very warm water (120 to 130°F)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
- 5 1/2 to 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I use the Wheat Montana brand and it always works very well, just an FYI for all you folks out west.)
- a few sprinkles of sea salt
- 4 tablespoons Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread, or other vegan butter substitute, slightly softened, plus more to oil the cast iron skillet

-a sprinkle of garlic powder
-a sprinkle of Italian herbs or oregano

Preheat oven to 450°F.
• Combine all the dry ingredients including flour, cornmeal, undissolved yeast and salt in a large bowl. This is where you want to add in a sprinkle of garlic powder and Italian herbs too if you want to. It adds more flavor to the crust.
• Add the very warm water and agave nectar and mix slightly. Next add in the oil and mix until blended. Finally add in the softened Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread and mix the dough very well, breaking up any chunks of the coconut spread or butter substitute that are in the mixture.
• Add more flour gradually if the dough seems too sticky. The dough should form a ball and will be slightly sticky and elastic.
• Cover the dough with a paper towel dampened with very warm water or a clean kitchen cloth and let it sit for a minimum of 10 minutes.

• Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and knead on a floured surface, adding additional flour if necessary, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
• Roll the dough out enough to fit the shape of the cast iron skillet and then transfer the dough from the floured surface to a well-oiled skillet, making sure that it goes around and slightly up the edges of the skillet. Poke the sides and bottom of the dough with a fork in a few places before adding the marinara sauce and toppings.

** I also spray the skillet with nonstick cooking spray to make sure that nothing sticks to the bottom while the pizza is baking.

-       sun dried tomatoes (Try to find the kind that are in a sealed bag, not the kind that are packed in oil.)
- 1 small can of sliced mushrooms
-       Kalamata olives, sliced into small chunks
- 1 ripe tomato, cut into thin pieces and then cut the pieces in half again
- about 2 cups of baby spinach, chopped
- 1 recipe tofu basil ricotta (Again, I used the recipe from The PPK.)
- about 1 cup of marinara or pizza sauce of your choice
- more Italian herbs and/or garlic and herb seasoning to sprinkle over your toppings

On the second pizza I used:
- Gardein brand chick’n pieces
- about 3/4 cup fresh broccoli, with the stems trimmed and the broccoli cut up into small pieces

One pie will serve six to eight people.

- Spread the marinara sauce to cover the base of the pizza dough in the cast iron skillet.
- Next, add the slices of fresh tomato and the sun dried tomato chunks and kalamata olives. Top those toppings with an even layer of tofu basil ricotta and then top that with the baby spinach. Add the broccoli and Gardein chick’n pieces if you want to and sprinkle some Italian herbs and garlic & herb seasoning on top of everything if you want to before baking.

Layering on the toppings helps lend to that traditional Chicago-style of deep dish pizza and helps everything cook evenly.

- Place the cast iron skillet over a large burner and heat on medium-high for about three to four minutes.
- Using oven mitts, transfer the cast iron skillet to the preheated oven and bake for approximately 17 minutes. Check on the pizza after about 13 minutes to make sure nothing is browning too quickly or burning. If the pizza doesn’t look done after that time, add on about three to four minutes to the cook time and you will know the pizza is done once everything is nicely browned.
- Again using oven mitts, remove the skillet from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Cut the pizza into slices and enjoy!

Deep dish delicious!

If that’s not amore, then I don’t know what is.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Take another little piece of my peanut butter-graham cracker-chocolate-covered heart now baby ...

Us single gals got together this year for Valentine's Day and I manned the dinner ship for the evening.
I brought leftover hummus and carrots for the appetizer, vegan deep dish pizza was on the menu as the entree and I wanted to throw in something extra for all the single ladies.

A few grahams got a sprinkling of sea salt over their chocolate coating!
I immediately decided that it was the perfect time to try out this irresistible-sounding recipe from Attune Foods for Peanut Butter Cup Grahams. Who doesn't love chocolate-covered anything? If you don't like it, then you haven't tried these crispy graham crackers slathered with a generous layer of peanut butter and then dipped in semi sweet chocolate!

The recipe also has a nut-free version of the recipe and you can try dark chocolate instead of semi sweet. Alisa sprinkled sea salt over the chocolate too. I added almonds to some of my peanut butter grahams as well as the sea salt. I'm thinking that some coconut flakes or a quick dusting of cocoa powder, or even dried sweet cherries could be added the next time (because there will be a next time!) I made these treats. I think it would also be dreamy and delicious to coat the graham crackers with Justin's Maple Almond Butter.

A generous teaspoon of coconut oil is mixed in with the chocolate before it's melted, resulting in a nice, smooth and almost velvety coating around the peanut butter-covered graham cracker. A small amount of powdered sugar is mixed in with the peanut butter and creates a nice thickness for each graham cracker. I needed to find a way to use the extra graham crackers that were leftover from my Inside Out S'mores Brownie Bar that I made last Saturday. The cinnamon flavored graham crackers worked well to add in another flavor to the recipe. Additionally, this recipe came together quickly. I made them within a matter of 30 minutes on Tuesday evening and I stored the peanut butter grahams in the fridge until Thursday night in a sealed container lined with parchment paper.

A closer look at the thick peanut butter coating

But after making 13 grahams because I had to do a taste test before serving them to my friends, there was some leftover chocolate that I needed to use. The strawberries in my fridge came to the rescue. Simple dip each strawberry in chocolate and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet or plate and then stick them in the fridge to set up.

My solution to using up the extra melted chocolate - chocolate-covered strawberries.
So, last night four single gals enjoyed watching the remake of the "A Team," dined on good, vegan food and had our fair share of chocolate.

I paired my peanut butter grahams and chocolate-covered strawberry with a glass of Shiraz-Cabernet. The deep fruit flavors of the red wine paired well with the dessert and the pizza.

Happy chocolate-covered holidays. As another Valentine's Day has come and gone, remember to let those special people in your life know how special they are and just how much you love them as often as possible! I would also suggest listening to Janis Joplin every and any day of the year.

Dodger and Willa were my other Valentines this year.

Monday, February 11, 2013

S'more Please

I did a little teaser for the blog on the Vegan in the Middle of Nowhere Facebook page this weekend and after a few busy days, I am ready to share a new baking endeavor with you.

It's winter, which means warm fires, lots of layers for the changing temperatures in West Yellowstone and welcoming many cross-country skiers and outdoor recreationalists to town.

The West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation, a local non-profit organization, sponsors a variety of winter events throughout the winter and this past Saturday wrapped up this season's Spam Cup races. Now, you are probably wondering what a Spam Cup is, but it's not anything too outlandish, just a bunch of Nordic skiers racing to win cans of potted meat that have been decorated to look like one-of-a-kind trophies. We had skiers of all ages come out to participate in the Spam Cup, but the skiing didn't stop there. Saturday was also the Taste of the Trails. The Taste of the Trails is an annual event that invites skiers and snowshoers of all ages and experience levels to participate in a progressive course with four feed stations on the area's Rendezvous Ski Trails. You basically buy a ticket and a trail pass for the day, strap on your snowshoes or skis and go at your leisure to strategically placed stops with appetizers, soups, an entree and best of all, the dessert station at the conclusion of your food-and-frolic journey.

I volunteered to donate a few vegan-friendly desserts to this year's event and spent most of Friday night baking/experimenting in the kitchen. This was a great opportunity (excuse) to try a recipe I stumbled onto online one night. I asked myself what I would want after skiing five kilometers on a sunny, but slightly windy winter afternoon and nothing sounded better than a s'more. It had to be a special s'more though- one that was easy to eat, vegan-friendly and appealing to the masses.

World, please welcome the Inside Out S'mores Brownie Bar! It is quick and feeds a lot of people with the help of using a vegan-friendly and family-sized boxed brownie mix and vegan-friendly marshmallows and graham crackers.

Look at those layers of fudgy chocolate, crunchy graham cracker and gooey and crispy marshmallows!

This inside-out creation welcomes you to indulge in layers of fudgy chocolate, crunchy cinnamon graham crackers and melty, crispy, bubbly marshmallow goodness.

I baked up these s'mores brownie bars by adapting this recipe and using vegan versions of the ingredients. I'm thinking of trying it again with a layer of creamy peanut butter in the middle or even squares of dark chocolate sandwiched in between everything to make a version for chocaholics.

Vegan Inside Out S'mores Brownie Bars:
(serves 20)

... Ready for some late night baking for these s'mores brownie bars!

• 1 
box Betty Crocker FAMILY SIZE (for 9x13" pan) Fudge Brownie (I would recommend buying another smaller box of brownie mix to have on hand because this still wasn’t enough to cover the two brownie layers.)
• Mix
 egg replacer, oil and water called for on brownie mix box
 as directed.
(I also had to adapt the recipe further using the high altitude directions because we’re at almost 6,700 feet in elevation here in West Yellowstone. And, I recommend using Ener-G Egg Replacer for two or three eggs worth for this recipe.)
• 7 
sheets Keebler cinnamon graham crackers

• 2 
cups vegan marshmallows
 -- I recommend using Dandies, which made by Chicago Vegan Foods. Cut up some of the larger marshmallows into smaller pieces for the mallow layer. Dandies can probably be found at health food stores or the specialty section of your grocery story.
nonstick cooking spray

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9 x 13 pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Prepare Fudge Brownie Mix according to package directions with egg replacer, oil, and water.

Pour half of brownie mixture into pan.

Top with sheets of graham crackers, breaking to fit as necessary.

- Sprinkle marshmallows on top of graham crackers, covering completely.

- Drizzle remaining half of brownie batter over marshmallows.

- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until edges are crisp and center is set.
Remove the bars from oven and let cool for 15 minutes to set completely. Slice into bars and serve.

Step-by-step, layer-by-layer

S'more please!

This is a note from the original version of the recipe: The typical toothpick test won't work for these because of the marshmallow middle, but the top brownies should be solid to the touch, not gooey, when done. Bake for an extra 5 to 10 minutes, if needed for doneness (checking after 5 minutes).

I am still tweaking this recipe because it doesn’t seem like the family size box of brownie mix is still enough for both brownie layers and the bottoms of my brownies were a little tacky after they finished baking. They still tasted fine, but I think they’d be slightly better minus some of the tackiness. Also, the marshmallow layer baked and bubbled A LOT when the bars were in the oven, so just be sure to keep an eye on these guys after they’ve been in the oven for about 20 minutes. They probably won’t be done, but you don’t want your marshmallows bubbling over and jumping ship either. The bubbling layer of marshmallows takes a few minutes to set and should be fine once they are completely cooled.

I was overjoyed to see that only two s’mores bars were sitting on the plate waiting for my two fellow skiing buddies as we made our way to the end of the course and over to the dessert table. The bars were on the table surrounded by my vegan chocolate chip cookies, bread pudding, some gluten-free brownies and cookies that were also donated and other desserts for Saturday’s crowd to enjoy.

There's the s'mores brownie bars and a baker's dozen of classic chocolate chip cookies ready to go to Taste of the Trails.

Happy eating, happy skiing and happy adventures. People might be asking for s’more of these bars as they seem to disappear pretty quickly.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What's in the Fridge

“What’s in the fridge?” I ask myself as I’m trying to think of something to make for dinner after a long day.

We just had another Bountiful Basket delivery made to West Yellowstone this past Saturday evening, so I made a mental list of the vegetables and fruits in my fridge as I drove home from work this afternoon.

I remembered I had a head of cabbage waiting to be used for … something. The rest of a cucumber needed to be used up pretty soon, the radishes were sitting on the bottom shelf waiting for their turn on the dinner plate and I was saving a small chunk of Follow Your Heart brand vegan gourmet mozzarella to use for something special. I’ve tried to make a few vegan cheese alternatives in the past using agar agar powder, coconut milk, turmeric and even liquid smoke for a cheddar style once. But, I rarely buy cheese alternatives like Daiya, Wayfare’s We Can’t Say It’s Cheese and Follow Your Heart anymore. When I do, I like to use it for something special or a new recipe, like a big pan of lasagna, a fully loaded pizza, or perhaps a sandwich. I haven’t had Tofutti cream cheese or sour cream alternatives in months. I admit I miss them at times, but I decided that there are many more nutritious whole foods out there than fake cream cheese and a bagel everyday and the small packages of cheesy goodness can be expensive. I was surprised to find the Follow Your Heart vegan mozzarella on sale for $2.99 while grocery shopping in Bozeman last month.

Getting back to the question of what’s in the fridge, however, has a little bit of its own story. I was checking NPR’s website on Monday morning – I like to catch up on arts and entertainment and music and NPR always has a few good newsy reads throughout the week. That’s when I stumbled upon this week’s Sandwich Monday on the blog, The Salt.

I read about a crazy-sounding latke sandwich creation around Hanukkah, and over the summer I remember a large carnivorous number being featured, but Monday’s sammie was special. This week’s Sandwich Monday review featured the Grilled Cheese With Mac N' Cheese. A humungous cheese-loaded guy, going by the name of “The Mac” is available at a place called Cheesie’s in Chicago, according to the write up on The Salt. A heaping pile of mac n’ cheese is hugged by gooey layers of even more melty cheese, which are being caressed by two toasted pieces of bread. Well, that crazy cheesy number got my food wheels turning and I haven’t stopped thinking about a grilled cheese sandwich ever since, more so how easy it would be to create a vegan version. That kitchen creation may show up on the blog at a future date. I have been trying really hard lately to use up some of the stuff in my kitchen that has been around for a while and I'm also watching my budget closely. Hence that long thought list of what's in the fridge.

View "The Mac" for yourself.

For now, I thought, I had enough vegan mozzarella and veggies to come up with something good.

Welcome to Sammie Wednesday. I present you with the “What’s in the Fridge” Sammie!

Melty vegan mozzarella, thick slices of tomato and avocado, thinly sliced onions, pickles and raw cabbage leaves come together on two pieces of toasted wheat bread. I threw on some salt and pepper and garlic & herb seasoning for good measure. The avocado also makes for a great, healthier mayo substitute too. Plus this green goddess is packed with good-for-you mono-unsaturated fat.

Melty, toasted goodness!

“What’s in the Fridge” Sammie:
(serves 1, vegan, dairy-free)

• 2 slices of wheat bread
• 6 to 8 thinly sliced pieces of Follow Your Heart vegan gourmet mozzarella, or vegan cheese alternative of your choice
• 3 slices of tomato
• about 3 or 4 large leaves of raw cabbage
• 2 dill pickle slices
• 1/4 of an avocado, thinly sliced
• salt and pepper to taste
• garlic & herb seasoning to taste
• non-dairy butter substitute, to butter the outer sides of each piece of bread – I used Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread and it worked really well.
• non-stick cooking spray for your pan

- Butter each outer side of the bread slices and then flip them over and start to assemble your sammie. Remember to only butter one side of the slice of bread. Place the mozzarella slices on each piece of bread, go with about 3 or 4 slices on each slice of bread. Next, layer on the tomato slices on one of the bread slices, with the onions to follow. On the other slice of bread, layer on the avocado slices on top of your mozzarella, then layer on the pickles and cabbage leaves. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper and garlic & herb seasoning.

-Spray your skillet with non-stick cooking spray and let it heat up for a minute or two. I used a grill pan and it left nice marks on the outside of the sandwich, but any skillet will do. Once the skillet heats up, carefully place your sandwich in the skillet and press down on the top of the sandwich with a spatula to flatten everything out a little. Wait until one side  of your sammie is toasted, carefully flip the sandwich over and wait for the other side to toast. This could take a few minutes and don’t turn your burner up too high or your sandwich could burn.

- Once everything is nice and toasted and the cheese has melted, remove the sandwich from the skillet, cut it in half and celebrate Sammie Wednesday with your "What's in the Fridge" Sammie.

I enjoyed my sammie with a few sides consisting of a quick salad of radish and cucumber slices and threw in a handful of yellow corn tortilla chips to round out the meal.

On the side

This sammie is quick, easy, nutritious and imaginative. It kind of smelled like a rueben while it was cooking in the skillet with the fresh cabbage and onions as part of the ingredients. Sandwiches are a great option for dinner or lunch when you’re in a hurry. Throw together a French toast number you’re scrambling for breakfast or enjoy a peanut butter and banana treat as a midnight snack. These guys are innovative!

Something usually tastes better when it’s between two pieces of bread or rolled up tight in a wrap.