Friday, September 30, 2011

It's time for .... Eggplant!

It's eggplant season here in Bella Italia and I've been cooking a few great dishes already so far.
Baba Ghanoush (Middle Eastern eggplant tahini dip), Eggplant Lentil Ragout
and Eggplant 'cutlets' prepped for tomorrow! ;)

Recipes will follow as well as more pics once I've taken them! =)

They might not look 'spotless' like from some supermarket, but these are local from the market, which makes it even better IMO!

Doesn't it look as if it's a face? Winking eye and all.. 
[Or maybe I stood too long in the kitchen? *lol*]

Minkus having his first encounter with an eggplant! ;-)

 And of course I couldn't only cook stuff.. I had the baking bug too! =)

So good! I had to put a restraining order on my kids to not go near the fridge within a 1 mile radius! ^_^

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What does a vegan eat?

I'm sure we've all heard it; as soon as someone finds out that we're vegan (or vegetarian), the first question is: "So what do you eat?" 

I'm honestly always surprised that people really seem to think that we're living such a deprived life.. where in reality I'd say it's quite the contrary!!
Eating vegan has opened my eyes (and taste buds) to so many more options, it's amazing!
I get excited when I try a new recipe and succeed with it, loving it myself but even more Hubby loving it too! =)

Just to show a few pics of my latest cooking...
... and please tell me, how does that look depriving? ;-) 
[I know my pics look by far not as good & professional like some other bloggers' pics, but I'd still like to show how my food looks like you know? :) ]

Hummus, sun dried tomato paste (home made) & lettuce
on home made whole wheat bread.

Dinner, Cauliflower Curry. We had it on quinoa. [And yes, I often cook bigger batches than technically needed for a 4 person household! ;) But this way I can 'feed my freezer' and always have something healthy ready to defrost!]

I wish pictures could include the scents! It smells soo good!!!

Lentil soup with home made sourdough rye bread.

And of course a banana bread can't be missing! ;)

I've made the Pumpkin Brownie Cupcakes (by Isa Chandra) the other day but before I could take a pic, they're all devoured by my kids & Hubby! *lol*
Guess I'll have to make another batch soon! *yum*


Ok, in case anyone of you is interested in the banana bread recipe, here it is:

Vegan Banana Bread
(adapted from Nancy Walker's recipe in "Wisdom from the Kitchen")

* Egg replacer equivalent to 2 eggs (I used 2 Tbsp cornstarch + 6 Tbsp water. -I've used ground flax seeds in the past too)
*1/2 c Earth Balance/vegan butter substitute (I used coconut oil)
*1/2 c vegan sugar
*1 tsp vanilla extract
*2 c whole wheat flour
*1/2 tsp salt
*1 tsp baking soda
*1 tsp baking powder
*1/2 tsp cinnamon
*3 medium bananas (I only had 2 and added 1 c apple sauce)
*1/2 c chopped nuts, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 F / 180 C
2. Cream sugar and vegan margarine (coconut oil) together until creamy
3.Add egg replacer and stir
4. Add in dry ingredients and mix well
5.Mix in mashed bananas and optional chopped nuts
6. Place in a well greased loaf pan ** and bake at 350 F/ 180 C for 50-60 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean. (Cover loosely with foil during the last 15 minutes to avoid over browning the top)
7.Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack for 10 min. Invert pan and remove loaf. Let cool before slicing.

** I shaved some semi-sweet chocolate on top but honestly you couldn't taste it. So if you'd wanted it more chocolate-y tasting, you'd have to add more chocolate or maybe even mix it in the batter?

Buon Appetito! 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cruelty-Free Tea Only, Please!

If hurting animals isn't your "cup of tea," make sure your tea is cruelty-free! Make sure to boycott Nestle, the makers of Nestea, and choose a compassionate company from our list that does not conduct experiments of animals.


This post was from the PETA site and honestly, I had no idea they do animal testing for tea! :(
This entire animal testing subject is just always very saddening and I try my best since years to not support it in any way by buying vegan make up for example. (Medicine.. I don't even want to think about it!..)
From now on I'll for sure not buy anything from Nestle!!!

Please sign the petition as well and if you can, remember not to buy from them either!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wedding anniversary

My husband did me the biggest favor and went with me to a *vegan* restaurant for our 10th anniversary (together since 11 :) ) last weekend.

I had found it through a website called
and was sooo excited to see there are 2 vegan restaurants in Catania, which is only half an hour drive from where we live! [Not that I'm driving there as the Italians drive way too crazy for my liking anyway and in those tiny streets and tons of roundabouts.. no thanks! Hubby is the designated driver! *g*]

What can I say? It was amazing!!!
And best of all, Hubby loved the food too! *yay*

Beautiful indoor garden setting

Starter: veggie 'spring rolls' with spicy sauce

Hubby's dish, Penne with creamy sauce.
Very yummy! DH kept raving about how unbelievably creamy it is! :)

My dish: Tempeh (my 1st)
Sooo good!!!

Dessert =)
Mine was Pistachio and almond with lots of chunks!

And since there was a cat with her kittens, of course I had to share some of my Tempeh! ;)

 They were sooo cute, but unfortunately very shy! This was the best shot I got from them eating!


Overall we had a great evening out, fantastic food and will be back soon for sure! ;)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Homemade Dairy Free, Sugar Free Coffee Creamer

Ahh, salvation!

Ever since I've made the switch to being vegan (finally!) I didn't enjoy my beloved cup of Java in the morning anymore since I didn't use coffee creamer anymore.
Besides the fact that the store bought ones are full of preservatives anyway and kinda pricey, I can't get non-dairy creamer here.. and even if, there's the big soy debate that's in the back of my mind.. (How much soy is too much?)

Anyway, thanks to Google, I came across a blog post with tons of non-dairy coffee creamer recipes! *woohoo*
Here they are:

  Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

*Almond Joy Coffee Creamer

1 cup coconut milk

1 1/2 tablespoons cacao powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons date paste (see recipe below)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract


Place coconut milk and cacao powder in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat and whisk until milk begins to steam. Turn off heat and whisk in date syrup and almond extract. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Will store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for one week.

*Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Creamer
1 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons date paste (see recipe below)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract


Whisk all ingredients in a bowl. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Will store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for one week.

*French Vanilla Coffee Creamer

1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons date paste (see recipe below)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract


Whisk all ingredients in a bowl. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Will store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for one week.

*Hazelnut Coffee Creamer

1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons date paste (see recipe below)
2 teaspoons hazelnut extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Whisk all ingredients in a bowl. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Will store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for one week.

~Date Paste~

1 cup medjool dates, pitted
1 cup hot water


Place dates in a blender or food processor. Turn blender or processor on and slowly add in hot water. Leave the machine on for about 1 minute, until smooth. Pour into a glass jar and store in the refrigerator.

Thanks goes to :)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies

...or I should probably rather say PB balls. ;p

I found this recipe on 
and had to give it an immediate try!

Honestly, I thought they'd flatten out on in the oven but apparently not..
Don't get me wrong, they're nice (for someone who loves PB it's not a hard statement to make *g*) but I feel I have to improve this recipe somehow..

If you try them and come up with better versions, please share them with me!


Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup oil (I used coconut oil)
3/4 cups sugar (I only used 1/2 c)
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix all ingredients in a bowl, roll the dough into 2-inch balls, place on a cookie sheet, and bake at 400°F for 10 to 12 minutes. 

Home made pasta sauce with eggplant & vegan Parmesan cheez

This version of tomato sauce with eggplant is called 'a la Norma' here in Sicily.. 
I guess a lady named Norma came up with it?
Well, either way it's delicious and with my version, using the Quinoa 'pasta' as well! ;)

I found this recipe online somewhere on someone's blog even, I think.. I can't remember (sometimes I just copy and paste recipes from different sites into word documents like a madwoman *lol*.) 
It's certainly the best recipe I've come across so far for home made tomato sauce as well as for 'handling' the eggplant!

Tomato sauce with eggplant

1 large eggplant or 2 medium, peeled if desired (I do because I find the peel slightly bitter), cut in half lengthwise, then sliced about 1/2 thick

Salt to taste
2-3 Tbs EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
1 large onion, minced
2 (- 4) garlic cloves, minced (I only had the jar type and used 2 tsp)
1 (28 oz) can of chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
Pinch of sugar
Italian seasoning to taste, basil, parsley 

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line baking sheet with aluminium foil, brush the foil with some oil and place the eggplant slices on it.
Sprinkle with salt and brush slightly with the oil and place in the oven for ~15 minutes or until browned.
Remove from the heat and carefully fold the foil over in half over the eggplant. (I had to 'mush' each eggplant stripe a bit towards the center. It all gets 'mushed' in the sauce in the end anyway, so no worries! ;) )
Crimp the edges of the foil so that the eggplant is sealed inside the foil and put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes or more. That way the steam continues to soften the eggplant perfectly.

2. Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat 2 Tbsp of oil in a large pan, add the onion and cook until tender, ~5 minutes. Add the garlic and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring until the mix is fragrant, ~ 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, Italian spices/herbs, salt & pepper.
Bring to a simmer and simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes until the sauce has thickened, stirring often! (I'm sure the longer you cook this sauce, the better it'll actually taste. I know, the Italians here cook their home made sauce for hours! I just had no time for that since my family members were claiming to be  'starving already'! :p ) 

3. Last step, add the eggplant (I've cut mine a bit into bite sized pieces) to the sauce. You'd also add it as soon as it's done baking but I'm not sure how it would turn out for the eggplant since it is already pretty soft coming out of the oven...

Voila, the perfect tomato sauce with eggplant! :D
Top it on pasta, rice, quinoa (or quinoa 'pasta' *g*), sprinkle a few beans on if you like for a bit more protein, maybe a few shakes of nutritional yeast (if you can handle MSG) or vegan Parmesan [recipe below] and you're good to go!

Buon Appetito! ^_^

Vegan Parmesan 'cheez' 
credit goes to Bryanna Clark Grogen

* 1 part ground almonds
* 1 part nutritional yeast
* dashes of salt, onion powder and garlic powder
Combine ingredients in container with lid and shake well.

Edit: I used the leftover sauce for my veggie pizza, topped with a few drizzles of nutritional yeast 'cheez' 

All for me!!! *ggg*

Whole wheat dough, spinach, tomato sauce w/eggplant..
Super yummy!

Quinoa 'Pasta' a la Val

After having come across this 'pasta' at our commissary on base, I just had to give it a try!

I love quinoa (my favorite method to cook it is in the rice cooker! 
1 c quinoa, 2 c water, done. -My rice cooker doesn't have fancy settings, it's only 'cook' or 'keep warm'.)

The 'pasta' I got looks like this

I had some awesome leftover tomato sauce from last night's dinner (with some roasted eggplant in it *yum* -recipe follows!) as well as some chickpeas, so my lunch was ready quick! ;)

I seriously love cooking & eating healthy!!! :D

Monday, September 12, 2011

Finally, I did it!

Yes, finally I've cut out the last remaining 1% that caused me to say I'm not fully vegan! (Using honey in my tea and having used creamer in my coffee.. which both I'll miss a bit initially.. but I'll get over it! It's worth it, considering the cause, of course!)

I've gotten in touch with the manager of the supermarket on base here (luckily I know him personally) and he's trying to find out if they can also get soy or any other plant based creamer as well as yogurt!  *yay*
Not that I'm wanting to eat soy-heavy, but at least having something in my coffee (plain soy or almond milk somehow doesn't work for me..) and being able to eat a 'yogurt' if the craving hits would be nice! ;)

Anyway.. I just had to share! I'm happy about finally committing fully without giving a crap what others (family included..) might think!

I wonder if Hubby would think this would be too extreme as a tattoo!? *lol*

Friday, September 9, 2011

She's doing it again!

I'm talking about Mt. Etna. ;-)
She (the Italians refer to her as a 'she') is actively huffing and puffing ever since the big(ger) eruption in January this year.

I have to say it looks pretty impressive and I love the view of Mt. Etna every day, but at the same time I'm happy that we're a little bit further away so we're pretty safe! 
Oh, we still get plenty of ash raining down in those cases, thank you very much, and even when it's just 'normal' rain, it's mostly brown water that leaves your cars all dirty! It's a big PITA (not the food! I mean Pain In The ...)
Over all the air isn't very clean thanks to Mrs. Etna constantly breathing out small clouds of ash, even if it's sometimes invisible to the human eye!
Not to talk about the issues people with asthma get due to that or contact wearers. I for myself hardly wear mine for that very reason!

But aside all that.. it's still cool! Here are a few more pics for you to see 'her' in all her active glory!

And this was yesterday, the view from our street.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bread & other sweets pics

While I'm on a roll here, I might as well share a few of my bread pics too now. :D

A typical German sourdough Ryebread

Something for the sweet tooth, a yeast braid..
Usually those don't survive too long in this house! *lol*

One of my first tries with sourdough, here all white bread.. I don't make it that often anymore hence to the low nutritional value.. but it sure is nice for sandwiches! ;)

And last not least an amazing 'Mock Apple pie'
I helped my daughter finding an original recipe from the pioneer days for her school project last spring and we came across this one!
Amazingly it really does taste like apple pie -and is relatively healthy too!

Mock Apple Pie

Boil in a pan:
1 1/3 c sugar
1 1/2 c apple juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp butter (I used coconut oil)
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla

Line your pie plate with pastry. (I only had Graham crackers so I crumbled those up) 
Break 14 Soda/saltine crackers into the plate and pour the boiled mixture over them.
Cover with top crust (didn't do that) and bake at 350 F (180 C) for ~40 min.

A few food pics

Just thought I'd start out with sharing a few pics of our latest dinners
 and snacks ;)
Roasted chickpeas:

2-3 cups of cooked chickpeas (1-2 cans, rinsed work too)
coat in extra virgin olive oil, add spices like Hungarian Paprika, cayenne,
salt, pepper, parsley -anything works!
Put in the oven at 400F for ~25-30 min, depending on how brown and crisp 
you like them

Credits go to a cozy mystery book "One bad apple"
which contained a few recipes in the back.

Recipe found on Eating well

This one was as well from Eating well

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A little bit more about me

My journey to live a veg*n lifestyle started ~6 yrs. ago for ethical reasons, though to be honest, I've always had trouble thinking of the poor animal when I ate meat, even as a kid!..
Finally, many years later, reading "The Skinny Bitch" gave me the last push and I was done! (I've tried watching a few Youtube videos like 'If slaughterhouses had glass walls' and 'Earthlings' but honestly couldn't bear watching more than 1-2 minutes max!.. Already written describtions haunt me for a long time and make me sob like a baby!)

Unfortunately I'm the only veg*n in my family.. but thankfully everything I cook (mainly vegan) gets eaten, so I guess I can't complain! :)
Once my kids are older and understand my reasoning behind my action, I hope they will follow my footsteps!
The reason I say I'm 'veg*n' is because I can't say I'm 100% vegan, yet it's also not directly 100% vegetarian as I do eat mainly vegan.. so, in case you wondered what's up with the asterix.. now you know! :)


I'm a stay-at-home-mom and love being in the 'domestic goddess' role!  
I love cooking & baking and trying new recipes; baking bread is another complete passion of mine! The smell of fresh baked bread is just something very comforting, isn't it!?
(It hasn't always been that way for me, loving food. For many years in my teenage years I've suffered from an ED, which I overcame by myself and with help of my husband who introduced me to the principles of 'clean eating' and also an entire different aspect of fitness!
Now, almost 11 years later I can finally say I'm at a point in my life where I'm happy with myself and truly enjoy food and the process of cooking & baking!)

Aside from cooking/baking, another big part of my life is fitness, as I just mentioned above.
It started out with going to the gym together with my husband and then later, after our first child was born, I turned to homevideos (back then it was all VHS tapes *lol*) and now, ~10 years later I'm still using my fitness DVDs, working out at home every day and loving it! I seriously can't imagine ever *not* moving/working out anymore!
Oh and I might have a 'slight' addiction when it comes to fitness DVDs as I have quite a collection (~250 DVDs -and that's not even that bad! I know others with way over 500!). The good thing though is, I'm using them all! ;-)
On a forum I frequent, we're calling ourselves 'vidiots' and it expresses pretty much what we are! -I don't expect you to understand me! Unless you are one of us? *lol*

Anyway.. when I'm not exercising or cooking/baking, I'm most likely reading! I'm seriously addicted to books and have ~300 in my shelf waiting to be read! [Not to mention my big veg cookbook collection and still wanting more! *lol*]
Sites like PBS (paperbackswap) really helped me out over the past years getting my 'fix' in books and honestly, I've never met such kind people like I have on PBS (and on my videofitness site)!!!!

I probably also spend a bit too much time online, surfing the next for new veg*n recipes and admirering other people's blogs with all those beautiful pictures of food! (I know, I myself can't compete with that, but I might still add a pic here and there! ;-) )
Anyway, that's it for now about me. I'm sure over time I'll ad this or that little extra tidbit of information about myself. ;)