Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Betty Crocker Project : Antipasto Pasta Salad

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So I made a huge batch of this for our friend Jack's BBQ, but I fell asleep and missed all the fun! It was mixed luck really, because that meant we didn't have to share any of this amazing salad. But this is not where I want to sing my sad songs or brag about my awesome lunch. Instead, let's talk about something random and kinda awesome.

As many of you who follow me on ye ol' social networking pages are painfully aware, I have recently fallen in love with Doctor Who. Don't worry, I won't bore you with nerd rants about Donna* and which Doctor is dreamiest... but instead I'm going to tell you about something else I think is cool.

Doctor Who has a spin off series called Torchwood. I would describe it as the BBC version of the SyFy TV show Sanctuary, but that's also not what I'm going to talk about today. I'm here to talk heroes. The dashing hero of Torchwood is a character named Capt. Jack Harkness and he is openly bisexual. He's probably the biggest flirt in any time or space, but he also talks fondly about past boyfriends, kisses men, and has a complicated relationship with one of his male teammates. In the sci-fi universe there have historically always been issues with a lack of ethnic diversity and women with more realistic body types, but let's be honest here.. there is almost never a hero who is not heterosexual**. Which is kinda strange, considering how many epic love stories are part of the sci-fi genre. So let's be honest: we are way overdo for Capt. Jack Harkness***.

Better late than never I guess. Which brings us back to this salad. I'm posting this too late to bring to a BBQ or picnic last weekend, but the great thing about summer is there's always another get-together coming up. Or you can always make this and keep it all to yourself. Either way... YOU WIN!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Come & Get It! Our Top 15 Favorite Vegan Recipes for Picnic & BBQ Season!

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Howdy Partner! (Just kidding; I won't write this whole thing cowboy-style.)

Let's get serious here, because we're about to talk about something I take very seriously... POTLUCKS! See, planning a really amazing group dining event combines art with mathematics, originating in imagination but ultimately rooted in procedure*. There are relationships between the invitees and seating to take into account, and let's not forget making sure you have enough silverware and cups and all those basic resources. And of course, there's the menu. We've collected a few of our favorite Summery BBQ, Picnic, and Potluck favorites in time for this long weekend and compiled them here to make your menu planning easier. OK - maybe more than a few.

These vegan recipes are BBQ and Potluck Tested and Approved.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Betty Crocker Project : Blackberry & Walnut Coffeecake

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I've spent a number of years being a best friend/amateur therapist to several young men and one woman who were addicted to "complicated" women. Some would call them "crazy", but I prefer to use a word that's just as judgmental when you say it in quotes and in a certain tone. When I'd look back at the countless hours I spent over the years listening to detailed accounts of crazy, I admit I used to shake my head in bewilderment. This delicious amazing coffeecake changed all that.

I feel like I should tell you - this is a bittersweet love story. See, I think I may have met my "complicated" woman.

Now you'll look through this recipe and wonder what I mean, because really it's a pretty simple, pretty awesome cake. But in less than 24 hours, this cake has come to make me realize that something beautiful can also be a real pain in the ass. You could even say this cake and I were doomed from the beginning. The fact that I forgot to defrost my berries over night so that I could bake the coffeecake for breakfast may lead you to say that the timing was just wrong. But really it was more than that. Things were going so well while I was blending the ingredients and filling our angel food cake spring pan. The Blackberry & Walnut filling was so good it was hard to not just sit down with a bowl of those berries and skip the cake altogether. While I sat typing away, waiting for this cake to get ready (bake), the warm vanilla fragrance that filled our home held the promise of true love. Then as I pulled this wonderful cake from the oven, I bumped my elbow on our kitchen island and dropped the pan. It flipped in midair like a freaking circus performer, and using reflexes that I can only describe as 'spidey*', I caught half of the cake in my skirt and the pan with the other half of the cake still in there with my other hand.

The cake that tried to get away.
The other half that was saved was less than pretty, but still absolutely freaking great. I debated just making this again, trying to undo what was done, but that's not how relationships work, is it? You can't just try again and pretend like nothing happened. The other thing is that this a real blog about real people really cooking their way through The Betty Crocker Cookbook, and this really happened. It's dumb, wasteful and sketchy to rebake another cake just so I can pretend everything I do is perfect and like I've never dropped a cake on my dress. I mean do I have to have a pretty picture when I can tell you this recipe works and is wonderful using the real photos from this really great cake. Don't believe me? You still need photographic proof?

A peak at the Blackberry & Walnut Filling.
Also yesterday was Geek Pride Day! Yes. Yesterday in 1977, Star Wars IV - A New Hope was released and no one was ever the same again...

Let's bake some cake.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sometimes I like to test myself...

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Like how many blueberries* can I fit in my mouth? I now know the answer is 13. 

If I ever wonder if I can bake a blackberry coffeecake before Dan has to go to work... Well, I now know that defrosting the blackberries the night before is pretty crucial. Recipe pending.

*Not Organic 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lentils... A Vegan's BFF

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What is it about lentils that makes us love them so? Is it that they're a great source of protein and amino acids? Maybe it's their folate, iron, vitamin B and fiber. Perhaps it's that they're a cheap and delicious little buddy that you can use in shepherd's pie or chili... hard to say. But I can say with confidence that this post is dedicated to the vegan's best friend: The Loyal Little Lentil.

I'm not going to pretend to be something I'm not, and try to wax intellectual about the nutritional requirements of being vegan and how we need to make sure we get enough B vitamins, iron and amino acids - three things lentils are eager to share. But I will tell you this recipe also has kale in it, which if you haven't heard, is like a wonder vegetable! I mean it has beta carotene, vitamin C, and calcium. Throw in the root vegetables and you've got a whole big bowl of buddies watching your back all week and making you feel a little better about indulging in some Vegan Cheesecake or Caramel Sticky Rolls.

This isn't normally the kind of recipe we post, because vegan food blogs are full of these kinda all-purpose/all-delicious lentil and vegetable recipes*. We like giving you recipes you might not find somewhere else, but people have said they want more lentils than just a few soup recipes. I actually love lentils. We eat lentils all the time! So here's a recipe for a big pot of delicious lentils that you can cook up Sunday night and enjoy for your lunch all week over rice or alone. I suggest eating it with some whole wheat toast, a glass of iced tea and a loved one because if you really loved them - you feed them lentils.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Scenes from the Perfect Birthday... Photos, Food & Gushing.

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My birthday began at midnight when Dan gave me the perfect present!
History has remembered a certain handful of men as being "Great Husbands". While only a person's partner can really know if a person really deserves to be called a "Great Husband", there are a few who I think stand out, like John Adams* and Abraham Lincoln. These men may have not been perfect, and had careers that were demanding to say the least, but their devotion to their families and partners have been noted for posterity. There are others like Paul Newman and Paul Child, who stepped beyond the traditional role of "husband" that they grew up with to the definition of "partner". I have been lucky enough to marry one of these exceptional men.

The 35th year of my life has been a pretty notable one. There have been so many ups and downs, and moments in our marriage that have really brought us closer than ever. But don't worry, I won't bore you with the details... instead I'm going to share with you a play-by-play of my perfect birthday that my perfect partner planned for me, and some photos that might inspire you to visit NYC...

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Betty Crocker Project : Mojito Bars

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This will be my last post before I turn 36.
I feel like I should tell you that this is when I stared at my computer screen for about 5 minutes.

See I've been a little distracted lately. I've been prone to these strange fits of optimism and silliness. An example of this is when I recently watched the movie Kick-Ass* again and found myself saying to Dan : "I think I may have to rethink my position on Nicolas Cage. He's kinda sweet." I mean Kick-Ass is a great movie but is it really good enough to make me forget this? Or this? What about this? Sigh. I'm just not sure.

For now, let's file that statement away with the time in college when I was slightly intoxicated and argued for longer than is reasonable that Henry Rollins is a modern day Renaissance Man**. There are other comments like this in that unnamed file but I think I have shamed myself enough for one day.

Let's get back to the business at hand. This weekend is not just the rapture - it's my birthday. So in case this is my last post before I'm sucked away to paradise***, I wanted to make sure that all you vegans could celebrate in style with Betty's Mojito Bars. They are perfect for bringing to farewell potlucks or to just enjoy at home with some real Mojitos - which is what we plan on doing tonight. I mean it is Friday and that means Mexican food at The Ol' Shannon homestead.

We make some marvelous mojitos around here - just saying...

I know some of you are wondering what the big plans are for my birthday weekend and to answer your questions : Dan will be planning our weekend events. GASP. I know the mystery and suspense is killing me. You're welcome to follow along on Facebook because I can't help but post things constantly and of course join us Sunday at Foodswings in Brooklyn at 1:30pm for lunch.

I know I should be using this post to reflect on this past year and all that has happened during the 35th year of my life but you guys don't want to hear about that... you want vegan Mojito bars and I'm happy to oblige!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Betty Crocker Project : Let them eat Pocket Calzones!

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So a funny thing has happened since I began writing this blog: I started writing letters in my head to random things and people. Perhaps you could say I started thinking in letter form.

Exhibit A:
Dear Gentleman in the Red Truck on Colley Ave:

While I am flattered by your offer of marriage and rather boisterous appreciation of my "cans", I will have to refuse. I do hope though that someday you find the love you are looking for.

Good Luck! Annie
Exhibit B:
An Informal Letter to A Vegan Stuffed Crust Mexican Pizza
But I have to say that when it came to these calzones, I only had two words: Yes. Please.
I grew up eating Italian food and have always loved calzones. I didn't really grow up in a home with many microwaved things, so I admit I get an evil thrill out of making "pocket" foods. This recipe is actually a bit more like a Sicilian cuddiruni (stuffed pizza) than a traditional calzone, and doesn't have vegan ricotta in it. But isn't that one of the best things about Italian food: it gives you room to be creative? You really can put whatever you want in your calzones and who's going to judge you? If you need vegan ricotta to enjoy a good calzone, we have two recipes for it in our manicotti post that are calzone-tested and -approved. I would also suggest trying Lightlife's Smart Deli Vegan Pepperoni and some broccoli, if you're looking for some suggestions.

OK, I've kept you long enough. Are you ready to get your Paisano* on?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Betty Crocker Project : Vegan Smokey Garlic Alfredo with Chicken & Some Springtime Vegetables

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So I got Dan's fever plague. It came and went pretty quickly but it was still a pretty annoying thing to have happen when you're so close to putting the putting the final touches on something... like your new home after a move. We're so close to calling this place home now. It's all at that cruel stage where it becomes more like cleaning than decorating. I've also been distracted collecting a kinda odd selection of groceries recently.

See an important part of moving for me is finding out where I can get supplies. I've been scouting out grocery stores and pagodas and keeping notes in my phone*. I've also been buying vegan necessities and oddities as I went from shop to shop. I wish I could compare myself to an adorable squirrel or those sweet little old ladies filling their cupboards and pantries in case there's another depression or emergency bake sale. I mean what kind of little old lady wouldn't have all the ingredients for carrot cake at hand at all times? But in reality, this scenario is more like one of those creepy survivalists in Idaho - stockpiling Daiya, Tofutti, Lightlife and Gardein in case I never leave my home again and venture into civilization.

It's not that I'm anti-social. I'm just really shy... and kinda weird. 

So long story short, we needed a vehicle for garlic to defeat our plague and had some fancy organic spinach linguine... Smokey Garlic Alfredo it was! If you're following along in your copy of Betty's Big Red you'll only find Betty's Classic Alfredo. We used that as the inspiration for the base sauce of this dish and tinkered. I mean isn't that the beauty of Betty? She gives us what we need - even if it's just inspiration.

So let's make a lovely light springtime Alfredo that's is way more "low fat" but just as creamy as any of it's dairy ridden peers. We added artichoke hearts and peas to ours this time but this sauce would be wonderful with any vegetables. I already have plans to toss in broccoli next time or maybe some zucchini. Yeah I like to dream big. 

Meet The Shannons for Lunch!

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In case you missed why this place is perfect place to celebrate not being saved.
If you're still around after the rapture - you should meet us for lunch at Foodswings in Brooklyn, NY at 1:30pm this Sunday May 22nd.

This is also the day after my 36th birthday. So be prepared to see this old lady eat a lot of mac & cheez. I mean a girl's got to celebrate some how right right?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Vegan Double Taco Burgers = A Cure for What Ails You

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So last weekend, Dan got sick. I had to miss the prom and stayed home to watch Dr. Who. No, you didn't travel back in time. We're talking NYC's infamous Veggie Prom. I know I could have gone on my own, but it's just a part of our relationship. We treat each other the way we'd want to be treated, and I wouldn't have been thrilled if he had gone off to dance the night away while I was stuck home suffering. So I stayed home and we made Double Taco Burgers.

Now I'm not sure if this a recipe as much as combo trick. A few months ago, I was shopping with my friend Marta, who you might remember her from such adventures as The Danannie Wedding and Vegan Tuna Casserole. We were checking out a new grocery store in Norfolk and found a series of skillet sauces created by Frontera and Top Chef Masters winner Rick Bayless... and heaven to Betsy,* one of them is vegan.

Be sure and read your labels - There are 2 green packets. One is vegan - the other isn't. You can see the ingredients list in this post from The Kitchn.

This sauce even uses agave nectar instead of honey for sweetness. So I got one and tested it out. That night we used it to make some Gardein chicken tacos, but this weekend we took it one step further. During my grocery store scouting, I found these skillet sauces in NYC too, and picked some up for occasions just like this weekend... times when we needed something fast and friendly and absolutely fabulous.

We needed Double Taco Burgers! During a time when nothing seems to be going right Double Taco Burgers are here to make it all seem a little less something. I mean, setting up the cable/internet in a brownstone has turned out to be a challenge designed for the Macgyvers of the world. We had so many cables and cords running through our apartment it looked like Hoth. Then Blogger dies, taking blog posts and comments with it. SIGH. Yeah - we needed some thing to fill our bellies that wasn't going to lead to a lot of dishes and was super quick.

OK - I'm going to say it. I mean I have to right?

Help us Double Taco Burgers. You're our only hope...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Betty Crocker Project : Chili Pots

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So a lot has happened these past few weeks while we've been busy with moving... I mean on a global scale. I mean where do I even begin? Should I go all the way back to Donald Trump publicly embarrassing himself? Or maybe I should mention Bin Laden is dead or the Celtics losing in the playoffs? There are storms ripping through the US and floods heading towards New Orleans... I mean they caught a Nazi in Ohio!

I know some of you are like : "Annie! I come here to read about food and werido sci-fi stuff!"

But it's going to be OK - I mean I do more than just hang out with Dan, read comics, bake and watch the BBC. Not much more yet - my life is still a little small but living in NYC it's about to get a lot larger. I mean I'm setting up lunch dates left and right at some of the best vegan restaurants on the planet with some of the best folks on the planet. This weekend there are pretty much too many events for vegans and vegan-friendlies in NYC... I don't think we're going to be able to keep up :
This recipe is one of those recipes that is so easy and quick - it's ridiculous and a great dinner for right now with so much going on. Yes - I know modern technology has made it possible for folks to wash dishes while catching up on current events but who wants to do that? Why not have less dishes and read? Yes - This is a vegan version of the chili and pasta casserole with some extras and twists... but really what isn't - right?*

Let's eat some chili pots...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

And We're Back... & this time we made Vegan Garlic Chicken Ramen featuring the Vegan Hard Boiled Egg

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Not your dorm room's ramen...
So you may have noticed that we've been M.I.A. lately. For those of you who aren't my buddy on Facebook or Twitter, this might be some big news: we moved to Brooklyn. Not just Brooklyn, but into a brownstone on a tree-lined street in old-school Bed-Stuy. So the past week and then some has been full of the usual moving dramas. You know - the packing, cleaning, and moving of various beloved objects. The unexpected melt-down at the thought of leaving the first home you ever shared with your partner. You know, the one that has all those lovely ups and horrible downs that come with a new and important relationship*. Of course, there is also the realization that you might never again visit this town that at one point you thought was going to be your forever home. This is of course followed by the calm realization that your real forever home is with your old man, and so you pack up your car with kittens and head out into the night... with a few tears.

OK. Now add to that driving a stick shift car from Virginia to New York with only a few weeks of practice under your belt, a few trips to IKEA, and a new apartment that while very charming is notably smaller than your previous place**... and that should pretty much bring you up to date on what we've been doing.

So we thought we'd come back with something easy: Ramen. I've been thinking about making this for months. Like many of you, I too have lived off ramen during periods of my life, and with my life various experiences and earned wisdom have come to develop a respect for real Asian cuisine. I certainly mean no disrespect to their instant counterparts, but the more traditional Asian noodle dishes are pretty much heaven. I mean, noodles to begin with are pretty much divine... so really is it hard to imagine a Pho/Ramen/Lo Mein Heaven? Um - No. I also hope this isn't too braggy, but I'm pretty happy how this little champ turned out. I mean she might not be the prettiest bowl of ramen to ever grace the internet, but she sure was delicious and gave me an excuse to make vegan hard boiled eggs again. Which is always a treat for me.

So to celebrate our first day back to the internet - Let's make some noodles!