Thursday, December 15, 2011

Making Gnocchi

As a senior in high school applying to various colleges, I fantasized about attending a small liberal arts school where I would get to know my professors on a personal level. They would find me so brilliant that they would invite me over for dinner and we would have deep, intellectual discussions. Obviously, I have super nerdy dreams. And it turns out that small liberal arts schools are incredibly expensive so I ended up at a public state university. But I've still gotten to know several professors. One of those professors was my professor for Spanish III and the program director for my study abroad trip to Costa Rica. A small group of us students, plus my professor, got to know each other fairly well during our month abroad. And we spent a lot of time talking about food. It turns out my professor knows how to make gnocchi and pasta, from scratch! She promised to teach us and this past Tuesday we were all finally able to get together. And now I know how to make gnocchi!

I know more of a method, than an exact recipe. But I had such a great time I thought I'd share it with you. So if you want to feed an army, you start out by boiling a 5 pound bag of peeled potatoes until tender. Drain the potatoes in a colander. Then use a potato ricer to rice all of your potatoes. You'll do this in batches, making several piles so the potatoes can cool.

Once all of your potatoes are riced you spread a whole bunch of flour onto your surface (we didn't measure, but I'd say at least 2 cups). Then you work together the potatoes and flour until they form a dough. When the dough gets sticky, just add more flour. And note, no eggs so this gnocchi is vegan friendly! (I specifically asked my professor/execute chef why no eggs, and she said that she thought they made the gnocchi more dense.)

Once the dough is formed you start pulling chunks to roll into thin rope strands. Once you have your strands, you cut your gnocchi with a regular kitchen knife. Once you cut your gnocchi press your thumb into it to make a little dent. Toss the gnocchi into the flour to keep them from getting sticky.

Once your gnocchi are formed, toss them into a pot of boiling water. You'll need to do this in batches because you'll have a ton of gnocchi. You know they're done cooking when they float to the top. It shouldn't take more than two minutes. Now after the gnocchi are cooked, it's really up to you. We put ours in a baking dish with liberal amounts of red sauce and cheese, then baked it in the oven for a few minutes. Served with garlic bread and salad in the company of great friends, it was a perfect meal.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Central Florida VegFest 2011

I think I'm very lucky to live in a region that's home to not one, but two, VegFests. Tampa's (home base) was October 15th this year and Central Florida (Orlando) was the following Saturday. Two Saturdays back to back filled with amazing food, beautiful animals, and great friends? Yeah, October was great. So what did I eat in Orlando this year?

I started out with a giant plate of vegan nachos. Oh my goodness, they were amazing. Blue corn chips topped with veggie chili and vegan queso. I split a plate with the boyfriend. Though we have a pretty great relationship, it got a little tense when there were only a few bites left. We worked it out, but maybe next year I'll just pig out with my own plate.

The nachos were just an appetizer there. I didn't drive all the way out to Orlando to stop with a plate of nachos. But there were just so many options! How's a girl to decide? Well, I just had to go with my gut, hehehe. And what really caught my eye was the "meatloaf" sandwich. This picture doesn't really do the sandwich justice. The meatloaf was wonderful, I'm pretty sure it was some kind of lentil loaf. It was smothered in ketchup and sandwiched between two slices of really good bread, served with a side a cole slaw. I really liked this sandwich, but I have some ideas for improving it at home. Mainly, making it an open faced sandwich and replacing the ketchup with...GRAVY!!! I'll keep you posted.

Other items our group of friends had were a veggie dog, a "philly" sub with portabello mushrooms, and a meatball sub. All were great (I stole bites, you know, to give a professional opinion) but I'm really glad I went with the meatloaf.

My only criticism of the Fest this year was the lack of dessert options. Granted, we waited awhile before searching for dessert, until around 3, but still. Cupcakes were the only option but I really wanted some ice cream or sorbet. The banana soft serve truck from Tampa needs to make it over to Orlando next year.

But all in all, it was a pretty great day. The weather was perfect, the company was awesome, and the food was fantastic. I'm not sure where I'll be next year, but hopefully in a town with a VegFest!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vegan Breakfast Pizza

Oh. My. God. This pizza was INSANE!!! Gravy on pizza? Hell yes! I found this recipe on one of my many Food Gawking nights. I knew I just had to make it. And now that you all have the recipe you have to make it too.

Vegan Breakfast Pizza:
  • 1 pizza crust, whatever your favorite is

For the gravy:

  • 1/2 c coconut milk
  • 1/2 c almond milk
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder

For the tofu scramble:

  • 1 package extra firm tofu, pressed, drained, and cubed
  • 1/3 package gimme lean breakfast sausage, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tbsp Earth balance
  • 1/4-1/2 c Nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • Dash of turmeric

Preheat the oven for the right temperature for your pizza crust. Start by browning the veggie sausage. When browned, place on a paper towel lined plate. In the same pan, saute the onions until soft. Add the garlic, tofu, and earth balance. Cook until the tofu is crispy and has absorbed all of the earth balance. Then add nutritional yeast, Italian seasoning, and turmeric. Add in browned sausage. Stir and lower heat until ready to serve.

While the tofu scramble is cooking start your gravy. In a pan heat the coconut milk until boiling. When boiling, add the salt, pepper, garlic powder, and flour and whisk. It will thicken up really quickly. Slowly add in the almond milk (or use more coconut milk) until the right consistency. Spread the gravy on your prepared pizza crust. Place pizza in the oven and cook until the crust is browned.

When the crust is ready, slice and spoon tofu scramble on top. Serve immediately. Devour. Most importantly, enjoy! Also, when I make this again I might make extra gravy to dip the crust in. Because gravy is awesome. I served mine with some fruit, but breakfast potatoes or hash browns would be good as well. Also feel free to add whatever veggies you have on hand to the tofu scramble.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tampa Bay VegFest 2011

Last Saturday, October 15th, was the second annual Tampa Bay VegFest. I'm happy to say, this year's was bigger and better than last year. And unlike last year, I remembered to take pictures of the food I ate. Bonus.

The boyfriend and I started out by making a lap of all the booths. We ended up eating a ton of free samples that way. Gardein, Dandies vegan marshmellows, So Delicious vegan ice cream, Field Roast sausages, and more. It was pretty fantastic. So by the time we made our way over to the food vendors we weren't actually super hungry. So we both got a $3 veggie dog. Turned out to be a good choice. I had mine on a whole wheat bun with ketchup, onions, and relish. It was just the right amount of food after feasting on samples.

Of course, we couldn't skip dessert. One of the vendors was a vegan ice cream truck, selling soft serve style ice cream made from bananas. I ordered a medium with chocolate sauce and graham crackers. It was really, really good. The texture was spot on and the combination of banana, chocolate, and graham cracker is just about perfect.

I also made new friends at all the different animal rescue organizations. But my best friend, the one who tempted me the most to make an impulse adoption, was Myla. She's about 2.5 months old and a collie boxer mix. She was as sweet as can be. Many of the other dogs seemed pretty bored with being petted and adored, and pretty much ignored me when I pet them. But Myla kept licking me and nipping my fingers. Oh my goodness, I wanted her so bad. It was really hard for me to walk away. I mean, look at that face!

All in all, it was a successful VegFest. The weather was perfect, the food was great, and the animals were adorable (and not on the menu). I'm not sure if I'll still be living in Tampa this time next year, but if I am, I will certainly return for round 3. And this Saturday I'll be going to the Central Florida VegFest in Orlando. It's hard work, going to festivals made especially for me and eating all this food, but someone has to do it!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Day of Pumpkin Puree

I participate in a pretty awesome local, organic buying club. Unlike a regular CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) instead of paying for an entire season up front, we buy per week. For $25 I receive between 10 and 15 pounds of local, organic produce from a family farm. I can cancel or change my weeks at any time. I usually buy every other week. I started participating in the club last March. It went on hiatus during the summer due to Florida's growing season, but it just started back up last week. I love the club because it really forces me to be creative in the kitchen. I receive fruits or vegetables that I've never heard of before or that I don't normally cook with. So one exciting item we received in our box last week was an entire calabaza pumpkin, a tropical variety. The pumpkin had a lot of potential, but I decided to turn the pumpkin into a giant batch of pumpkin puree.

First, rinse the outside of the pumpkin to get any dirt or grit off. Then cut the pumpkin in half. For this job you'll need the biggest, sharpest knife you have. And be very careful. It took a little maneuvering but eventually I got my pumpkin into two halves. Once the pumpkin is split in half, scoop out the guts and the seeds. Rinse and save the seeds for roasting later.

Then go ahead and slice the halves into slices about an inch wide. You want all your slices to be roughly the same size so they cook evenly. Line the slices of pumpkin on a baking sheet (I ended up needing two baking sheets). Roast the pumpkin in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes. I didn't drizzle the slices with any oil or salt because I wanted the puree to be simple and pure.

Check the doneness of the pumpkin by sliding in a knife. If it slides in easily then they're done cooking. Take them out of the oven and let them cool. Once cool, use your knife to remove the peel. When all the peels are removed toss the slices into the food processor. Blend until smooth. You'll need to do this in batches. My pumpkin yielding 7.5 cups of pumpkin puree.

Now, you can store puree however you want. But unless you plan on using a crazy amount of pumpkin in one week, I recommend freezing it. I also recommend freezing it in pre measured portions. I placed one cup of puree into a ziploc bag. I squeezed all the air out and then sealed the bag. This allowed for easy stacking in the freezer. For a quick way to defrost, fill a bowl with hot water. Place a bag of puree in the water for a few minutes until defrosted.

If you live in the Tampa Bay area and are interested in buying local, organic, seasonal produce click here.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bluebbery Waffles with Lemon Glaze

Every Thursday I have a standing brunch date with my friend Sammi from Vegan Pandamonium. This started out as a going out to lunch date. But one week, when I was trying to save some money, I asked if she would like to come over and I would make brunch instead. And since we're both still trying to save money, and we love cooking for each other, brunch has stuck.

This week we both went all out trying new recipes. I really enjoy waffles but have never really found a recipe that turns out the way I want it to, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Well today I finally found a recipe that did just that. It came from VeganYumYum with just a few small adjustments on my part. This will now be my go-to waffle recipe. You can definitely change it up with the fruit of your choice.

Blueberry Waffles:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (I prefer unbleached)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegan sour cream
  • 1 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 5 tbsp water
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1-2 tsp lemon zest (optional)
Preheat waffle iron. In one bowl combine dry ingredients. In another bowl, combine wet ingredients. Then add dry to wet in 2-3 batches. Gently fold in blueberries. Use about 1/2 cup batter per waffle. My waffle iron cooks the waffles in about 7 minutes. Place finished waffles on a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm.

Lemon glaze:
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 3 tablespoons of almond milk
Sift powdered sugar. Add all other ingredients. Stir until smooth. Drizzle over waffles.

***A good tip from VeganYumYum. If you use frozen blueberries, reserve two tablespoons of the dry ingredient mixture. Toss the frozen blueberries with the dry ingredients, then fold into the batter at the last minute. This keeps the batter from turning a greyish purple color.
***I subbed vegan sour cream for soy yogurt in the original recipe.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chocolate Cherry Smoothie

Let me begin this post by saying that I never measure ingredients when making smoothies. It just seems unneccessary. I taste and add as I go. So the measurements given for this chocolate cherry smoothie are imprecise and are definitely allowed to be adjusted based on your taste preferences.

I had the idea for this smoothie originally when I bought 2.5 pounds of cherries one week when they were on sale. It turns out that me and the boyfriend can't eat that many cherries by ourselves before they go bad. So before the cherries could take a turn for the worst I popped them in the freezer and began brainstorming on what recipes I could make with them. For some reason the idea of doing a healthy take on the Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia flavor stuck with me. I'm not really sure why, because I don't think I've ever actually had the Cherry Garcia flavor. But this is what came out of my brain and into the blender (figuratively, not literally).

Chocolate Cherry Smoothie:
  • 3/4-1 cup frozen or fresh cherries
  • 1-1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • Drizzle (maybe 1-2 tsps?) agave nectar
  • 1 cup almond milk
Place all ingredients in the blender. Blend until smoothie consistency. Add more milk if the smoothie is too thick. Drink up!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Vegan Chocolate Silk Pie

So what's the excuse this time? School, work, thesis? Regardless, I've been slacking. But I'm here with a recipe for a kinda sorta healthy chocolate pie. And it's vegan. So that counts for something, right?

I believe I found this recipe during one of my many Foodgawker stalking nights (that counts as busy, right?). As soon as I saw the recipe and realized I had all the ingredients on hand I knew I had to make it. And I'm so glad I did. It couldn't be easier and it couldn't be more delicious.

You can use any pie crust you prefer. I made a graham cracker crust, but I also would not judge you at all if you used a store bought crust. I also won't judge you if you don't make a crust put simply spoon the chocolate silk into your mouth straight out of the food processor.

Chocolate Silk Pie:
  • 1 package silken, extra firm tofu (I used mori-nu)
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp almond milk (or soy, rice, whatever)
  • Pinch of salt
  • About 1 1/3 c vegan chocolate chips
  • 1.5-2 tbsp agave nectar
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave (your choice, I used microwave). Then throw all of the ingredients into a food processor. Process until completely smooth, no chunks of tofu. Pour into a pie crust of your choice. Place in fridge, chills for a few hours. Devour. I garnished mine with fresh raspberries. Strawberries or bananas would also be good. I'm also thinking next time I might add a tablespoon of cooled coffee to enhance the chocolate flavor. Enjoy!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Costa Rica: Parte 3

Casado, meaning "married" in Spanish, is a typical meal in Costa Rica. Traditionally, it comes with a meat of your choice (chicken, beef, or fish), a salad, rice, beans, and sometimes plantains. This meal was fairly easy to have vegetarian as I would simply order the "casado vegetariano" or the "casado sin carne" (vegetarian casado or casado with no meat). This is the very first casado I had, served at the cafeteria of the institute where I was studying Spanish. This meal, complete with an iced tea or fresh fruit drink of the day, set me back about $4 American. Needless to say, I ate this meal quite often for lunch while I was in Costa Rica. It really was a whole lot of food for a very small price. It was fairly healthy and kept me full for a long time. My only complaint about this plate of food only had two pieces of plantain!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Costa Rica: Parte 2

When I left for Costa Rica I expected that I wouldn't have a ton of food options as a vegetarian. I left fully expecting to be eating rice Linkand beans for three meals a day for 28 days. However, I was pleasantly surprised that this turned out not to be the case. Don't get me wrong, I did eat a fair share of rice and beans but I was also lucky enough to stumble upon a few vegetarian restaurants. My favorite was the Veggie House. I ate there twice and ordered the same thing both times, it was that good. Both times I had the wrap. It came with your choice of garbanzo or soy patty. I chose the garbanzo. Hummus was spread on the tortilla and then filled with numerous veggies including lettuce, carrots, beets, tomatoes, and avocados. On the side they served fresh, homemade salsa and chips. I know this doesn't sound super exciting, but it was incredibly delicious.

I've been making a similar wrap since I've been back. I spread a liberal amount of hummus (usually roasted garlic hummus) on a whole wheat tortilla. Then I add spinach, thinly sliced onion, grated carrots, and grated beets. I then add a good sized handful of chickpeas. A few times I've also made baked falafel to replace the straight up chickpeas. It's a healthy, satisfying lunch. I make it the night before and grab it on my way out the door to work. And it's perfect at room temperature.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bears Eat Beets

Finally! I was finally able to stretch a recipe into an Office reference. So what about beets? Well, as mentioned previously I really love beets. In fact, after this post I have two more recipes coming that involve beets. But this recipe is all about beet juice. My mom has an awesome juicer so whenever I visit home I request some fresh juice with breakfast, at least once. Well this time my mom made the BEST JUICE EVER. I say this with absolutely no hesitation. This juice was so good I think both bears and Dwight Schrute would approve.

Mom's Awesome Juice:
  • 2-3 beets, scrubbed
  • 5-6 carrots, scrubbed
  • 3 granny smith apples, washed
  • 1 lemon, peeled
Place fruits and veggies in the juicer. Make juice. Enjoy! I believe this made us about 3 cups of juice, perfect for mother daughter sharing. I've actually been craving this juice since my mom made it for me. I need to get myself a juicer...

Also for breakfast that morning was my mom's amazing frittata with red bell pepper, broccoli, potato, onion, and garlic topped with provolone and parmesan cheese. And a nice side of fresh ciabatta. One of the many, many reasons I love visiting home.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

As a college student with a minimum wage part-time job I am always looking for ways to save money. And as a person who cares deeply about the planet I am always looking for ways to change my routine in order to help the environment. Well when I discovered homemade laundry detergent I definitely killed two birds with one stone.

Homemade laundry detergent is very simple and inexpensive to make. All you need is borax, washing soda (not baking soda), and mild bar soap. Borax and washing soda can both be found in the laundry aisle of your grocery store. I decided to go with a powdered form because it's quick to make as there is no cooking involved. I found the recipe here, recipe #4.

Powdered Laundry Detergent:
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 2 cups finely grated mild bar soap
Mix all of the ingredients well and store in an air tight container (I use a cleaned out ice cream container). Use two tablespoons per load. That's it!

I've found that this detergent cleans my laundry just as effectively as store bought detergent. The only thing different, which doesn't bother me but did take some getting used to, is that the clothes don't really smell "fresh" when they come out of the washer. Because the soap is unscented, no scent is imparted to your clothes. But don't worry, they're definitely clean! Do any of you have money saving, green household tips?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Costa Rica: Parte 1

Hola! It's good to be back. I've actually been back in the states for a week but I've been doing laundry, spending time with family, and getting back into my routine. I can't wait to share all of my food adventures in Costa Rica with you all! I've decided to post about Costa Rica in several parts. Since I was there for a month I ate a ton of food. And I've decided to start with the most important dish in Costa Rica.

Gallo Pinto. For all of my non-Spanish speaking readers, gallo pinto literally means painted rooster (even though there is no rooster in the dish). Traditionally, gallo pinto is made using leftover rice and black beans. It is typically a breakfast dish, even though it can be eaten any time of the day. Nicaraguans also claim that gallo pinto originated in there country, but don't let a Costa Rican here you say that because you'll be in big trouble.

Gallo pinto originated as peasant food. There are two explanations behind the name "gallo pinto". The first, and most likely, is that the name was given to hide the fact that there is no meat in dish. Historically, meat was expensive and hard to come by. The other explanation is that the dish is "painted" with the specks of cilantro and peppers that color the dish.

Gallo pinto, as stated earlier, is made with leftover beans and rice. It is flavored with onions and liberal amounts of cilantro. In Costa Rica, a sauce called San Lizano is also used. Because it is a breakfast dish it is usually served with eggs, tortillas, cheese, and fresh fruit or fried plantains. And I can tell you from personal experience that gallo pinto is ridiculously delicious. In fact, I even brought a bottle of San Lizano back to the states with me so I can cook an authentic version. And that recipe will be coming very, very soon.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tofu Bruschetta

I can't really post the recipe for this tofu "bruschetta" because it's from a copyrighted cookbook. But I can tell you how absolutely delicious it was. For Mother's Day I bought my mom Sheryl Crow's new cookbook If It Makes You Healthy. To my pleasant surprise the cookbook turned out to be pretty veggie friendly. And to my even bigger surprise my mom chose the tofu bruschetta as the first recipe she wanted to try.

Now, my mom is not a vegetarian, but she's really supportive and open minded. I mean, hello, she took me to Sublime for my early birthday dinner, so obviously she's awesome. But she's not really the biggest tofu fan. I think this recipe may have converted her. But then I was in for a third surprise!

My dad and my sister tried it as well. And not only did they try it, they loved it! While my dad and sister are supportive of my choice of being vegetarian, they're not always the most open minded when it comes to food. Especially my sister, who basically eats no vegetables at all (it's ok little sis, I still love you). My mom and I conveniently did not answer their question for the first ten minutes of dinner when they asked what was in the "spread". I basically listed every other ingredient. "Oh, it's just lemon juice, olive oil, garlic..." But my dad finally guessed right and continued to eat two more servings. So what I'm telling you is that you can get this spread approved by even the most die hard, tofu bashing omnivores.

We served the tofu "spread" with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions. We made crostini out of our favorite whole grain baguette. And then we sprinkled our assembled bruschetta with fresh herbs. It's was ridiculously delicious.

Well my lovely Blake Bakes followers, this will be my last post for about a month. Because...I'm going to Costa Rica! I'm studying abroad for four weeks and I will be a little busy studying Spanish and site seeing to do any posting. But I will be back at the end of June, probably with a recipe for gallo pinto, a traditional Costa Rican dish.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Couscous Salad

This recipe comes from my wonderful mom. She actually doesn't use a recipe for her couscous salad, and neither do I. But this is the "recipe" I've come up with after watching her make it and being a professional taste tester.

I've made this salad three times in the past two weeks. The first time was for a class pot luck party. It wasn't so well received there. The football players in my class don't like to eat that much green (seriously, their words, not mine). I then made it again for the USF Community Garden potluck for two reasons: 1) I needed validation that my salad is in fact delicious and 2) I love this salad. Thankfully, it was very well received at the second pot luck. In fact, one party goer was licking the bowl clean. And the final time was for mother's day. And yes, my mom loved it!

Couscous Salad:
  • 1 box whole wheat couscous
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 1-2 carrots, grated
  • 1-2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4-1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Prepare couscous according to box directions. While the couscous is cooking prepare the vegetables and herbs. Place all prepared veggies, herbs, and cranberries in a bowl. When the couscous is done mix with veggies. Stir in lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. I prefer to make this a day ahead and let the flavor meld in the fridge. But it's also good the day of.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


A few weeks ago as a very early birthday present my mom bought tickets to Wicked at the Broward Center of the Performing Arts. I had wanted to see Wicked for about five years, so I was super excited to finally see it. Even more conveniently the play was in Fort Lauderdale, the home of Sublime, an all vegan restaurant I've been wanting to try for basically forever. It was a girls day with me, my mom, my sister, and the Vegan Pandamonium mom.

First we were brought a complimentary amuse bouche of basil polenta. My mom usually doesn't really like polenta, but she gobbled hers right up. It was smooth, creamy, and had a lovely basil flavor. It was a very nice way to start the meal.

For our appetizer we ordered the Frito Misto; fried cauliflower in a sweet chili sauce with sesame seeds. I really enjoyed it. I order a similar dish when I go out for Indian food but there was definitely a difference. At Sublime the Cauliflower wasn't too soft, it had texture. I loved the sweet chili sauce, but I would've liked a little more heat.

For my entree, with the recommendation of Sammi over at Vegan Pandamonium, I ordered the "steak" sandwich. The "steak" was made of gardein and was topped with daiya cheddar and housemade "special sauce". The sandwich was really good, but I don't know if I'd order it again. While I really do love gardein products, since I make them at home I don't usually like to order them when I'm out to eat. But still, the sandwich was really good. But the best part of my entree by far was the sweet potato fries. They were thick cut like steak fries. Oh. My. Gosh. So good.
For dessert, again from the recommendation of Sammi, we ordered the chocolate nirvana cake. The cake was chocolate cake with kahlua buttercreme covered in chocolate ganache. The cake was really good. But Sammi built the cake up a lot, telling me it was the best chocolate cake she had ever had. I don't know if I would go that far. The cake was good, but a little dry. However, I could have eaten the kahlua buttercreme with a spoon. Bring on a bowl of kahlua buttercreme.

All in all, it was a really wonderful meal. Great company and great food. What more can you ask for?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sweet Potato Oatmeal Breakfast Casserole

I love breakfast. And within the last year or so I've started eating oatmeal. A lot. Like almost every day. For better or for worse, a few months ago I discovered that a spoonful of Nutella is an excellent way to make oatmeal exciting. Now even though I still recommend this as an occasional treat, it's not the most healthy way to eat oatmeal. So when I stumbled across this recipe from Oh She Glows I knew I had to make it. I've made this recipe about four times, almost once a week since I discovered it. I've made adjustments based on a) my personal preferences and b) what I have one hand in my pantry. I think I've got it pretty perfect now.

Sweet Potato Oatmeal Breakfast Casserole, adapted from Oh She Glows

For the Oatmeal:
  • 1/2 cup oats (instant is fine)
  • 2 cups almond/soy milk
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled, diced
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 rounded teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
For the Topping:
  • 1/3 cup chopped pistachios
  • 2 tablespoons vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance), cold
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350. Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the sweet potato. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Give the pot a quick rinse then add the milk and oats. Whisk well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook 1-2 minutes (if using instant) or 5-7 minutes (if using regular), stirring frequently. With a potato masher or pastry cutter, mash in the sweet potato and banana. Then stir in the cranberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and agave. Cook on low for another minute or two. Make the topping by cutting the butter, flour, and sugar with a fork or pastry cutter. When the margarine is pea sized, stir in the pistachios. Transfer the oatmeal to a greased casserole dish or cake pan (I use an 8x11 pan). Sprinkle the topping on the oatmeal. Bake the oatmeal uncovered for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes set the oven to broil. Broil on low for about 2 minutes. Be careful not to let the topping burn. Serve warm out the the oven. Yum!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Vegetarian in Savannah, GA!

This week is my spring break. Back in November a good friend of mine mentioned taking a trip to Savannah or Charleston for spring break. Because we're both from Florida, partying it up on the beach in Daytona or Ft. Lauderdale just sounded boring and unappealing (I'm also a really big square and I don't actually party). I had heard really great things about both Savannah and Charleston but we ended up deciding on Savannah. She invited her roommate and I invited my boyfriend and off we went!

Savannah is just a really neat little town. If you're a history buff like me then you'll love it. The town is really old and there are just loads of historic sites. But let's be real, this is a food blog. So this trip was really about some great food. I'm proud to say we didn't eat a single chain the whole time we were there; we only ate at local, independent businesses. And the food was really really really good.

After a 6 hour car drive and no lunch, we were pretty much starving upon our arrival in Savannah. I have a friend there and he had recommended a few places to eat. One of those places was Zunzi's, which we happened to spot after being downtown for about 5 minutes. We liked Zunzi's so much we ate there twice. And it was fabulous.

The first picture is of some really excellent falafel. It was served with lettuce, a fresh pita, and homemade yogurt sauce (it usually comes with tomato, but I don't like raw tomato so I asked them to leave it off). Now, this wasn't necessarily the most authentic falafel I've ever had but it was delicious. It was moist on the inside, crisp on the outside and the yogurt sauce just really pulled it all together. I demolished it and didn't even leave a single crumb.

My boyfriend ordered the portobello mushroom sub both times we went, that's how much he liked it. The sub comes with portobello mushrooms, zucchini, hummus, cheese, spinach, and tomato on freshly baked french bread. They also put their house-made dressings on the sandwich. I really don't know what kind of dressings they were, but they were delicious. Kind of like a buttermilk, vinagrette-like, ranch. And a spicy kind of the same dressing. Seriously delicious (and I don't even really like salad dressing!).

On our second trip to Zunzi's I decided to order something different, even though my falafel was delicious. I ordered the vegetable curry over mashed potatoes (you get a choice of mash or rice). It also came with a choice of spinach, romaine, or peas and carrots with a hunk of fresh french bread. Again, it was delicious. The curry was definitely a "white people curry" but super flavorful with lots of fresh vegetables. Again, the home-made dressing on the salad was delicious. The mashed potatoes were just how I like them, super smooth. And I am a sucker for any kind of fresh bread.

Also, one of the best things at Zunzi's I never snapped a picture of. They had some amazing iced tea. Not southern iced tea, which I drank a lot of in Savannah. But iced African tea. It was some sort of rooibos blend. It was amazing. They even gave me a sample before I ordered a cup. Basically, if you're ever in Savannah you have to check out Zunzi's! And if nothing else, order the African iced tea!

The next night for dinner we were planning on going to another recommendation of two Savannah locals, a pizza place called Vinnie Van Go Go's. But when we got to the restaurant it was an hour wait so we decided to look somewhere else. And we stumbled upon 606 East Cafe. Again, we had a pretty delicious, inexpensive meal. One of my favorite parts was the decor. There were an assortment of bras and panties hanging from clotheslines throughout the restaurant. There were also funky lamps and other furniture.

My boyfriend and I both ordered a sandwich (I don't remember the name). It had artichoke hearts, onions, cheese, and broccoli. We also ordered a side of curly fries. The sandwich was pretty good, but my only criticism is that is was cold. It was really tasty, but it would've been better warm. But my friend Sam ordered a curry chicken salad. I tried a bite of the lettuce that the chicken hadn't touched. And oh my goodness. The curry salad dressing was amazing! I am definitely going to try and recreate it at home.

Our last dinner in Savannah was a success at Vinnie Van Go Go's. We went on a Monday night before the dinner rush and were able to get seated right away. You can do pizza by the slice, but my boyfriend has a pretty big appetite (I've seen him eat an entire pizza by himself) so we split a medium pizza with pineapple and onions, our favorite toppings.

This was seriously good pizza. The crust was perfect, just the way I like it; really thin with fluffy edges. The cheese was ooey gooey and melted and perfect. And they used fresh pineapple, not canned. And it was $13 for a huge "medium" pizza with two toppings. Two thumbs up.

So if you're ever in Savannah, don't eat at chains. It is totally possible to eat entirely at awesome, local businesses. There were places that looked really good but we didn't get to try. But seriously, if you ever go, eat at Zunzi's, 606 East Cafe, and Vinnie Van Go Go's. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

West Palm Beach Green Market and the ABC's of Me

Though I am currently living in Tampa, I'm originally from Palm Beach County, FL. My one Friday class was canceled last week, and I am done with class at 12:15 on Thursdays so I took the opportunity to go home and see my family. My mom happens to be just as big of a foodie as me. So Saturday morning we headed to downtown West Palm Beach to enjoy the beautiful weather and walk around the Green Market.

The West Palm Beach Green Market is a great market. It's located at the end of Clematis Street right on the Intercoastal. Currently, there are over 50 vendors and free samples are plentiful.

My favorite vendor? Oh! Pickles. I know what you're thinking. Pickles? Really? But let me explain. These are the BEST PICKLES EVER. They are sweet, spicy, and garlicky all at the same time. The picture is really not indicative of how delicious they are, but if you look closely you can see the pickles swimming in red chili flakes and whole garlic cloves. They give out free samples on crackers with a little bit of cream cheese. My boyfriend likes his on sandwiches, my mom on black bean burgers. But me? I like them straight up, right out of the container.
And here a few other photos of some great vendors, Organic Teas N Spices and Farmhouse Tomatoes, Inc.

Now on to the ABC's of Me. This is just a fun little thing floating around the blog world that I stumbled on at one of my favorite blogs, Organically Me.

A. Age: 20

B. Bed size: Queen. It's basically the perfect size.

C. Chore you hate: Dishes. You think I would get over it because I cook so much and cleaning the dishes becomes routine, but I really do hate it. I keep trying to make my boyfriend responsible for all the dishes since I do all the cooking.

D. Dogs: I am definitely a dog person. My entire childhood I had the best dog ever. Her name was Lisa and she was the perfect mutt we found at the pound. She passed away my freshman year of college. I haven't gotten another dog yet, for several reasons, but whenever I need some dog time I go visit Oliver, my friend Sammi's dog. He's the second best dog ever.

E. Essential start to your day: OJ and a banana. I also enjoy a cup of coffee with agave and soy/almond milk, but the coffee is optional. The OJ and banana are a requirement. I only go to the grocery store when I am low on OJ and bananas. If I'm out then it's a real emergency.

F. Favorite Color: Blue

G. Gold or silver: Silver

H. Height: 5'4

I. Instruments that you can play: I played cello from third grade all the way through high school. I also used to play guitar and bass guitar, but I haven't picked up either in a while.

J. Job title: Student. And also Park Operations Hostess, but I don't like to talk about that one.

K. Kids: Not today. Get back to me in 7+ years.

L. Live: Florida, born and raised. Tampa is the furthest north I've ever lived and I'm fairly certain I'd like to keep it that way.

M. Mom's name: Darlene. Hi Mom!

N. Nicknames: Blakey and/or Blakey Wakey. My dad always calls me Blakers.

O. Overnight hospital stays: When I was born. That's about it.

P. Pet peeves: Bad drivers. Wet towels on the bed. When my classmates ask a question that the professor already answered...twice. When I tell people I'm a vegetarian, they ask if I eat eggs, I say yes, and they say: "Well, that's just like chicken abortion!". Just to name a few.

Q. Quotes from a movie: "No, no. It's not schizophrenia. It's just a voice in my head. I mean, the voice isn't telling me to do anything. It's telling me what I've already done... accurately, and with a better vocabulary." Any guesses?

R. Righty or lefty: Lefty. I'm special.

S. Sibling: I have a little sister, Paige. She's 17, so not so little any more.

T. Time you wake up: Usually by 8 for school. On days when I have no responsibilities I prefer not to set the alarm which means I get up around 11, sometimes later.

U. Underwear: Excuse me?

V. Vegetables you dislike: I'm not a huge fan of broccoli, but it's growing on me. I've also never been brave enough to try brussel sprouts.

W. What makes you run late: I always set my alarm three seperate times, in five minute intervals. But somehow I still keep sleeping...

X. X-rays: Only of my teeth. Luckily, I've never needed any other x-ray.

Y. Yummy food you make: Everything on this blog, hahaha.

Z. Zoo animal: Ok, I don't really support zoos. But. My favorite animal has always been the bottle nosed dolphin and I like sea mammals in general. And elephants.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Happy belated Valentine's Day! My boyfriend and I, considering it is our sixth Valentine's Day together, kept it pretty casual. We went out for pizza (amazing, bbq tofu pizza) and then came home and watched Dexter. Super romantic. But I did want to make us a nice Valentine's Day treat. Considering it's strawberry season in Florida I thought chocolate strawberries would be perfect. And they couldn't be easier to make. Seriously. Two ingredients. That's it.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries:

  • 1/2 c semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 pound strawberries, rinsed and patted dry
Slowly melt the chocolate in the microwave. I melted at 30-45 second increments at 20% power. Once chocolate is melted, use a spoon to smother the strawberries in chocolate. Place strawberries on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Chill in the refrigerator for about an hour. Enjoy with a special someone. Or keep them all to your self.

*Be sure to melt the chocolate slowly, otherwise it will burn. You could also melt the chocolate with a double boiler.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Drumroll Please!!!

And the winner is...#1!

Congrats Tim! I will be e-mailing you shortly with the details. Thanks all of you for entering. And a special thanks to CSN for sponsoring!

Giveaway Entrants and Your Numbers

I have given each entry a number. A random number will be selected using The winner will be posted tomorrow. Good luck!

Tim: 1
Ashley 1: 2
Domestic Diva: 3
Sammi: 4, 5
Ashley 2: 6
Liz: 7, 8

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Veggie Meat and my first ever Giveaway!

If you are a follower of Blake Bakes then today is your lucky day! CSN Stores has offered to do a giveaway! I know you all remember me mentioning CSN numerous times. I've done two product reviews, first I reviewed a fabulous pair of baking sheets. More recently, I reviewed a wonderful 9x5 circulon loaf pan. Well, now it's your turn. CSN seriously has everything, not just kitchen supplies. They have a really nice laptop messenger bag for you computer lovers as well as Valentines Day gifts.

But we'll get back to the giveaway in a little bit. How about a recipe? Now, when I ate meat I was never big sandwich person, but my boyfriend was. He loved sandwiches and still does. We also try to bring our lunches to work instead of eating in the cafeteria but he tends to monopolize the leftovers. So for a while now I've been looking for a good meat substitute that would make good sandwiches for lunches. Well thanks to Vegan Dad, I found a great recipe. You should have most ingredients on hand; the only thing I had to run to the store for was the vital wheat gluten. And feel free to substitute whatever herbs and spices you want, it should turn out wonderful.

Veggie Lunch Meat, adapted from Vegan Dad:
  • 1 cup white beans (chickpeas also work fine)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (canola or vegetable is also fine)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 3/4 cup vital wheat gluten
Get water steaming in a steamer. Place all ingredients except the vital wheat gluten in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and mix with vital wheat gluten. Work the mixture into a dough. Shape the dough into a thick log and wrap in aluminum foil. Place the log in steamer and steam for one hour. During the last 15 minutes of steaming, preheat the oven to 350. Remove the veggie meat from the steamer and place in the oven. Bake for 45-60 minutes. The veggie meat should swell up and press against the foil. Cool completely in the refrigerator. Store in the refrigerator. Slice thinly for sandwiches. My boyfriend likes his with veganaise, spinach, mustard, and pickles on a good whole wheat bread.

If you don't have a steamer basket, like me, there is a cheap, easy way to make one. Take an old aluminum pie plate and poke holes in it, about 1/2 inch apart. Get water steaming in a pot, place the pie plate on the pot, and place in the veggie loaf. Cover with a lid and steam for the indicated amount of time.

***This giveaway is now closed***

Now back to the giveaway! CSN has graciously allowed me to giveaway a gift certificate for $35! There are two ways to enter. Make sure you are a follower, then leave a comment telling me what you would buy with the gift certificate; it doesn't have to be kitchen stuff. But also don't be boring. For example, "I want a frying pan" won't count. The second way to enter is to be a fan on Facebook. Click on my Facebook badge and "like" my page. Make sure you post a comment telling me that you "like" me on Facebook. If you are not a follower your entry will not be counted. The giveaway will be open until February 11th at 11:59 pm. Each entry will be assigned a number and a winner will be chosen using Thanks again CSN!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy (Belated) New Year!

As I very well know we are almost two weeks into the New Year. It's crazy how time flies. Remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned that CSN Stores had approached me with another opportunity? Well, that opportunity was a product review! I was actually able to order two products this time, but I'll just review one of them today. And that product is....a 9x5 Circulon Loaf Pan. And it's beautiful. I ordered it for a very similar reason that I ordered my baking sheets. The only loaf pans I owned were flimsy, cheap aluminum ones. It was definitely time for an upgrade. But recipe would I use to break in my new loaf pan?

Well, as I so courteously bragged, I received a KitchenAid stand mixer for Christmas and I had been itching to try the dough hook it came with. And for some reason, the idea of cinnamon bread kept invading my brain. I found a perfect recipe while lurking Food Gawker. Now, as it was my first time making this recipe I did not make any modifications or adjustments other than using almond milk instead of regular milk.

My loaf pan worked perfectly, turning out a wonderful loaf of bread. I definitely recommend this recipe and the loaf pan. It was a little bit of work, and a whole lot of waiting for the bread to rise, but it was so worth it. My whole apartment smelled like cinnamon. It was wonderful. The bread was soft, sweet, and basically perfect. Straight up, smeared with a little butter, toasted, whatever. Just make some. And thanks again, CSN!