Wednesday, June 16, 2010

it pays to have a coffee master in the house.

Yesterday I found a fun little surprise for Brandon. When I was in the coffee aisle at the supermarket, I saw a little orange box. It was chicory!

Most people know of chicory coffee, from Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. Chicory was originally added to coffee to extend it. (Which is exactly what the little box of chicory says it's used for. No mention of taste, it just calls it a "coffee helper".) But, it tastes pretty good.

You can buy blended Cafe du Monde coffee in stores. But Brandon, the coffee master, has been wanting to make his own blend with fresh ground coffee. The thing is, you can't usually buy the coffee and chicory whole bean. And, you all know, it's much better to fresh grind your coffee.

Anyway, Brandon expertly blended the coffee and chicory this morning. It was delicious.

You know you all wish you had a coffee master in your house!

(The coffee master program is one that Brandon completed at Starbucks. It means he did a lot of studying and got to wear a special pin and a black apron.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

the menu board: june 7 through june 11

Week 2 of the Apostles' Fast:
Monday: Cuban Black Beans and Rice (see recipe below)
Wednesday: Dinner at Church
Friday: Country Fried Seitan with white gravy and Green Beans

Monday: We love this one! It's one of mine and Brandon's favorite fasting meals. The addition of the brown sugar and vinegar make it Cuban style. It really jazzes up something as basic as black beans and rice. We included this in our wedding favor cookbooks, we love it that much.

Caitlyn's Cuban Black Beans and Rice:

1 large onion, diced

2 tablespoons Oil

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

2 cans black beans (not drained)

1 teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Sauté the onion in oil over medium high heat until transparent. Add garlic and cook for one additional minute. Reduce heat to medium low. Add the black beans, cumin, cayenne, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Simmer on low for 30 minutes. Stirring often. Mash some of the beans with the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in cilantro. Serve over cooked white or brown rice, garnish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Tuesday: Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili. This tasted really nice, I think. I had a REALLY bad toothache and the spicyness was NOT what I needed at that moment. I ended up eating buttered (or smart balance-d) noodles for dinner while watching the Glee season finale. Needless to say, I was all about being comfortable that night! (I found out on Friday, I'm going to need a root canal. Blech!)

Wednesday: Dinner at Church= Falafil, Humous, and Jerusalem Salad. Brandon's favorite fasting foods. He never ever gets tired of humous.

Thursday: Kale and White Bean Soup. I really liked this one. I used homemade vegetable stock, along with some carrots from our yard! Even though I wasn't the planter of these carrots, I now really understand the joy of eating something from your own garden! When I decided I wanted to have this soup I was thinking of something more thick and bland. I was really surprised. This was really full of flavor and much more exciting than any other white bean soup I've eaten in the past.

Friday: Country Fried Seitan with Green Beans AND BONUS Vegan Maccaroni and Cheese. I made meat. Or rather, Seitan. It was seriously easy. I was so surprised. Traditional Seitan is made by kneading wheat flour and washing it multiple times over the course of several days. Vital wheat gluten is a type of flour that is ONLY the protein and gluten from wheat flour. It makes the process much easier, basically, you add some liquid and other ingredients and it turns into this tough dough. Then, you poach it in some broth. Then it's easy to turn it into anything using it like meat.

I'm not kidding- it tastes like chicken. No, seriously.

We fried up the little "cutlets" and they were like country fried steak. (Brandon's favorite!) I forgot to make the gravy, but we didn't miss it. Then, I tossed steamed green beans with a cajun seasoning blend and some smart balance.

I got inspired to try this maccaroni and cheese recipe. PLUS, I had bought some nutritional yeast (a good substitute for cheese) and I thought I'd go for it. It was really easy. Actually, without having to grate all the cheese I normally use for my regular mac and cheese recipe, it was a LOT easier. Definitely not as tasty as my favorite Martha's Mac and Cheese. But, really nice.

Disclaimer- I usually don't make so many meat and dairy substitutions during fasts. But, to be completely honest with you, I'm not a very good faster right now. I've been a big baby about this fast. Whine. Whine. So, my own little rebellion has been to use these substitution foods. I have a feeling many of the saints wouldn't approve of my current philosophy.

Weekend Meals: I don't "plan" the weekend meals. I really like the ability to be spontaneous over the weekends. But, since I'm sharing my recipes and ideas, I thought I'd include what we ate over the weekend.

I made this Crispy Sweet and Sour Seitan. Yum!

I saved an extra fried seitan cutlet and turned it into my own little Chick-Fil-A style sandwich. Complete with veganaise.

Sunday lunch= Soul Fish. Hooray for the fish-wine-oil katalysis during this fast.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

there might have been an angel choir...

... When I first bit into that pork-y deliciousness.

I got done at work early Friday before last. (A fasting free Friday, I might add.) Leaving just enough time for Brandon and I to go to Payne's Bar B Q for lunch.

It's on Lamar Ave. near McLean. I might sound a little sheltered... But, I don't frequent Lamar too often. But, my dear husband assured me it's totally safe.

The building is unassuming to say the least. Much like most of the culinary gems of the world. It's not much to look at. Upon walking inside the former gas station, I noticed green vinyl tablecloths with ponsettia patterns, and only about 6 tables. The lighting leaves a bit to be desired, but I promise, you won't mind.

The aromas were heavenly. I knew I was in for a treat.

I let Brandon do the ordering, he's the pro. The menu's pretty simple. But, DON'T ask for "pulled pork." It's sliced or chopped. We both got chopped plates, Brandon's spicy, mine mild. Then, chose a canned drink. There's no beer list, no soda fountain. Canned cokes. Like I said, it's not much.

I was positively giddy to try my sandwich when they called out our order.

The Bun: traditional white bun
The Cole Slaw: almost neon, it's sweet and appears to be made of yellow mustard, and sweet relish. It is completely different from any other slaw I've ever eaten. IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY!
The Meat: slow cooked (of course) but, over charcoal. (NOT TRADITIONAL) then taken out and fried up on a griddle. So, there were subtle variations in the textures. It had crispy bits, and super tender, fatty pieces. Perfection.
The Sauce: simple.simple.simple. I read somewhere that it might be 3 ingredients. It was sweet and transparent. Not too thick, but not a vinegar based thing either, almost a glaze of sorts.

Overall. The very best barbeque I've ever eaten.

I actually considered thanking Mrs. Payne herself. (She still works in the kitchen.) It was that good.

Sorry to tempt with all this talk of pork during the fast. But, I started this post weeks ago... and I wanted to give you something to look forward to, after the fast.

Monday, June 07, 2010

the menu board: may 31 through june 4

"All made with love, and without dairy!" (Week one of the Apostles' Fast.)
Monday: Homemade Black Bean Burgers (see recipe below) with Baked Home Fries
Tuesday: Slow Cooker Quinoa and Corn Chowder
Wednesday: Dinner at Church
Friday: Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto (I omitted the beans, so yes, this was a protein free meal. Sorry guys.)

Monday: The first day of the fast, and Memorial Day. Luckily for us, we had our fill of burgers and potato salad at the cookout the night before. But, it's tradition to grill, so we enjoyed the leftover bean burgers (for the vegetarian party attendees) and home fries baked using Huey's seasoning.

I started making my own veggie burgers a few months ago. I looked around the internet for recipes. And I watched a few videos. Here's what I came up with: (No specific proportions, just use your knowledge of a regular beef burger's consistency to guide you...)

Black Bean Burgers-
Ingredients for 4 generous burgers:

2 Cans Black Beans (Drained and Rinsed)
1 Medium-Large Onion Diced
Rolled Oats
Salt-Pepper-Cumin-Chipotle Chili Powder to taste. (This all depends on how you like your burger!)

Place all the ingredients in a bowl. I like to use my immersion blender to puree' most, NOT ALL of the ingredients. (You don't want baby-food, leave about half of the beans whole.) You can also do this in a food processor, but mine was on the fritz when I created the recipe, and I really like the control I have with the stick blender. (I've also done this by hand, finely mincing the onion and mashing the beans with a potato masher.)

Mix in some more oats if the mixture seems too thin. You're looking for the same consistency as a traditional meat burger, so that they'll keep their shape. Shape into large, generous patties. I like to let them rest in the fridge for a few hours, this makes them come together and hold up even better.

To Cook: Option 1: Place on a greased baking sheet at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, flip and cook for 10 more minutes.

Option 2: Grill. We grilled them, and they worked out perfectly!

They're really really filling... yet Brandon usually finds a way to eat 2-3 in one sitting!!!

BONUS!: I woke up Monday morning with a serious waffle craving. I looked through all of my vegan cookbooks and found that I only had the ingredients for one recipe, pumpkin waffles. (Not the most traditional Memorial Day brunch choice.) I called my dear friend Ashley and told her to get out of bed and come eat waffles with me! (Brandon had to work at his Starbuck's job on Monday morning, but had the day off at the library.)

It made about a dozen waffles. So, I froze the remainder. They can easily be reheated in the toaster for a quick and crispy waffle.

Tuesday: I was so ready to experiment with vegan slow cooker recipes. This is my first meatless slow cooker experiment. I loosely used the recipe above. I just used what we had: quinoa, potatoes, onion, garlic, and corn. It looked disgusting. Like really really bad. It was a really yucky grey color. Then the corn just looked even worse. It was a horrible color combination. We all eat with our eyes first... And I was turned off! But, it tasted really nice. It just needed more vegetables (like the above recipe recommends) and it might have been better. I was just too lazy, and tried to save money by using the things I already had.

Wednesday: Church dinner=Red Beans and Rice.

It was also our one month anniversary! Brandon just happened to have the day off. So, I woke up early and made the waffles again! Yummm! (Correction, Brandon manned the waffle iron while I got ready for work.)

Thursday: A sweet friend from church gave me a vegan cookbook as a wedding gift. It was such a great and thougthful gift for an Orthodox person! This recipe for golden chickpea and artichoke salad is perfect for us. Especially since Brandon had to work late. It doesn't need to be served hot. It can be served at any temperature. Covered in a lemony parsley dressing. I also made this again for a picnic at the Levitt Shell concert on Saturday night, and it was a hit again.

Friday: I made this risotto a while back. And it was definitely time to bring it back! It's not a simple dish, no risotto is. But, who doesn't love the super creamy comforting deliciousness of starchy rice with delicious ingredients like meaty mushrooms and tangy sweet sun dried tomatoes. I used some white wine in place of one cup of stock this time to change it up a bit (plus I had an open bottle in the fridge). Brandon said this was my best risotto ever.

PS- Call me a hypocrite... But, Brandon had book club on Sunday night and we BOUGHT the black bean burgers. I really did plan to make them, but a super busy Saturday dictated otherwise. Morningstar Farms makes a very nice black bean burger, for the record.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

thanks y'all!

We wanted to thank all of our church family who helped with the wedding. So many of them worked countless hours to help us prepare for the wedding and clean up afterward.

We planned this little cookout. And it was such fun!

I made invites using stamps and layered papers. Sadly though, I didn't get them all sent. So, some of the sweet people only received an e-mail or personal invitation. (I didn't plan on my schedule getting so crazy! Sorry guys!)

YES! I am aware that the "Thanks" backwards... I had to take the photo with my photobooth, and I don't know how to mirror it. But, you get the idea... Right?

I used all of my new and beautiful Fiesta Ware items to decorate. (Sweet little Maggie told her dad that she "liked my theme", so I think that means it was a success!)

Brandon lovingly hung the lights on the porch for such incredible ambience. I had candles in mason jars, and was able to use my sweet sunflower bouquet. We have an amazing front porch. It's absolutely perfect for entertaining. We set up another folding table for extra seating. I got these great plastic plates for a steal. I bought a ton, so in the future I don't have to buy paper plates for parties.

The party menu:

Burgers (made a little more delicious with Huey's seasoning)
Black Bean Burgers (Watch for the recipe in this week's menu board post!)
Creamy Potato Salad (with sour cream, mayo, dijon, diced vidalia onions, parsley, salt and pepper... Super simple, and such a hit!)
Chips with Dill Dip (made with sour cream, dill, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper... I feel guilty about how much people raved over this ridiculously simple dip!!!)
Lemon scented fruit salad
Debbie's Cookies

It was a pretty simple menu. I actually wish that I had more food. We ran a little low on potato salad and chips. But, oh well. I think most everyone enjoyed themselves otherwise!

I got a great apothecary jar with a spout as a wedding gift. It made the perfect pink lemonade dispenser with a few lemon slices floating in it. I also got 2 great aluminum buckets with stands for ice and the beer/wine. I think those buckets are the best $12 I've spent in a while! I hate using a cooler for a cookout.

I think overall, it was a perfect first cookout! (Minus running out of food and charcoal, but, OH WELL!) Such a fun party!

Now, the reason anyone reads a blog: to see if they show up in the photos.

Thanks y'all!!!