Wednesday, July 11, 2012

crazy good calzones!

I get so excited when one of my veggie dishes turns out well that I'm like a little kid!  I made vegan calzones!

We've made these Italian sausage calzones for years, and they are one of my favorite meals.  Well, you know that sausage part doesn't go well with my new commitment to eat only foods without a face, and without a mother or a father.

So I had the calzones on the menu for everyone else, and I was feeling kind of sad and left out, until I thought of veganizing the recipe.  I could make some seitan sausage and use that along with some Daiya mozzarella cheese to make some vegan calzones.

I wouldn't say these calzones are very quick unless you prep the sausage onion pepper mixture the night before, or if there are two of you getting the meal ready, but they are easy and quite delicious.  They are originally from one of those little Pillsbury cookbooks that they sell near the cash registers.  I'm a sucker for those.  

I whipped up a batch of the seitan Italian sausages that I found here on Susan Voisin's blog, FatFree Vegan Kitchen.  I added a little extra fennel and black pepper to give it that definite sausage-y taste that I love.  You mix it, roll it into little sausage shapes and roll it up in tin foil packets.

Then you steam it and it looks like this.

I sauteed a little onion and green pepper in a bit of olive oil, added some of the cut up sausage, and mixed it all with some of the Daiya cheese.  Then I used that for the filling in my calzones. That Daiya cheese is some cool stuff.  It's made out of the same plant that tapioca comes from.  And when it melts, all I can say is, Oh My.

So I baked a separate batch of them after everyone else's were done, and I'm telling you, they made me giggle!  They were that good!  My heart is happy tonight!  Well my stomach is, too, but mostly my heart because my food isn't making me sad.  And it's good for me.  I'll take my leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  How much better does it get?

Here's the recipe, and the only things I changed for my vegan ones tonight are the things I mentioned above.  Give them a try--either way!  I've posted this before, but I'll post it again to save you the search if you want it.

Cheesy Sausage Calzones recipe

Source: Pillsbury Crescents Biscuits & More - March 2004

1 pound bulk Italian pork sausage
2/3 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 (8 biscuits) can Pillsbury Grands
4 ounces (1 cup) shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups tomato pasta sauce, heated (I like to use jarred pizza sauce)

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

In medium skillet, combine sausage, onions and bell pepper; cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until sausage is no longer pink, stirring frequently. Drain. Cool 10 minutes.

Separate dough into 5 biscuits. On ungreased large cookie sheet, press each biscuit to form 6-inch round. I cut the sides of a large baggie open, spray the insides of it with cooking spray, put the biscuit in between them and roll it out with a rolling pin.

Top half of each biscuit round with sausage mixture and cheese to within 1/2 inch of edge. It takes a couple of tablespoons. Fold dough over filling; press edges firmly with fork to seal.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve warm calzones with warm pasta sauce for dipping.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

vegan is where my heart is

This year, I've been changing my eating habits over to a mostly vegan diet.

Every year when I go in for my physical, they weigh me and they run those diagnostic tests where they check my cholesterol, my blood sugar, etc.  I have been keeping track over the last several years to see if any of the changes I've tried would improve my test results.  Less sugar, less fried foods, more oatmeal (I ate oatmeal almost every day for breakfast for the last two years) and on and on.  Nothing really changed very significantly.

I decided to make the shift to a mostly vegan diet for multiple reasons.  The main reason is that I have such a hard time justifying eating meat when I know how cruelly animals in our food chain can be treated, all the way from when they are born until the day they are slaughtered.  It's hard for me to participate in the process.  I used to shop in the meat department and deliberately not think about where the meat in the neat little packages came from.  I can't do that anymore. It was easier to make the shift than to live with the angst.

Another reason is that I want to see if and how it will make me healthier.  Basically, I want to see how it will affect my weight and my blood level readings that I've been watching, and if I'll feel better. I know that I'll be taking in less cholesterol and probably fewer calories because I'm cutting out meat and dairy products.  So when I go back in for my physical, which I typically do early in the year, I'm anticipating significant changes for the better, but the proof will be in the pudding, as they say.

I'm not expecting perfection out of myself, and if I do eat an egg here, or have some dairy there, it's not going to be the end of the world.  Progress is my perfection.  I'm going to be a conscious eater. I can't claim the title of vegan right now, but awareness is the first step for me. Just like when you go on a spending diet, or a food diet, the first thing you do is document what you are currently doing so you know what has to change. This change has been a long time coming, and now I'm wondering why it took me so long!  My sinus issues have cleared up, and my pet allergies seldom bother me either.   Another thing I've already noticed is that with not consuming dairy products, I have gotten my sense of smell back.  For the first time in years, I can smell again, which means I can taste again!  Like all the time!  This is a novelty for me.

As far as the food goes, I try to add a few new standbys to my go-to foods every know, the things I can put together in a hurry when time is short and I'm hungry.  I have no shortage of new ideas, though, because there are so many great vegan food  bloggers out there that I feel like a hummingbird, swooping from one to the next, printing out the dishes that pique my interest and bookmarking the rest. And out of the recipes I've tried...most of them I will make again.  Some of the ones I've tried have been outstanding, like hitting a home run with the bases loaded!  LOL. And others, well, let's just say I'll have to tweak them before I make them again.  I'm still looking for a mac and "cheese" recipe that I like.  I've tried a couple and haven't liked them at all.

On the positive side, I've eaten a wider variety of meals since I started this.  Vegetables are so versatile.  I've made spaghetti (squash) and beetballs with a delicious tomato sauce to go on top.  I'm learning a whole new vocabulary of meal making, new staples and standbys, and oh, yes.  I'm becoming familiar with the many faces of tofu!  LOL.  I love the stuff!  Yes, I think some of my kids think I've lost my ever-lovin' mind, but that's okay.  I'm happy.

But I'll leave you with this thought from James Cromwell:
“So-called farms today treat animals like so many boxes in a warehouse, chopping off portions of beaks and tails and genitals with no painkillers at all, inflicting third-degree burns repeatedly by branding cows, ripping out the teeth of pigs, and just a horrible catalog of abuses that, if done to dogs or cats, would be illegal on grounds of animal cruelty.”

I just can't be a part of that.

Monday, July 2, 2012

spiders! ewww!

It was pretty hot and humid in our neck of the woods yesterday.  I stayed inside most of the day, looking at vegan recipes online, putting groceries away, cleaning up the kitchen, and making some food for today so we can eat a little earlier in the evening.  I got all the dishes done, and by the time bedtime rolled around, I was exhausted.  I brushed my teeth and fell into bed.  That's where things got interesting.  *holding up my sarcasm sign*

So, I'm just on the verge of falling asleep, when from under the covers, I feel this definite tickle on my arm like something just ran across it. I repeat, UNDER THE COVERS, I felt this. There was something under the covers with me.

I completely FREAK out! I leap up out of bed and I’m brushing my arm frantically. Poor Phyl. I’m probably nearly giving him a heart attack because he is asleep already—he flies up out of bed, too. He can’t see anything because it’s dark. “What?? WHAT!! What’s the matter??”

I’m shrieking, “A BUG!! A BUG!! A bug just ran across my arm! Sh*t!! Where is it??” I’m flinging my covers all over to try and see the bed in the dark. (Real logical, right? Like I’m going to see something.)

Phyl, after taking a second to realize that no, we are not under attack from crazed space aliens, staggers over to the switch and turns on the light, and after a second, he goes, “There!” and points at the wall. A very speedy black spider was running like crazy across the wall. My heart almost pounded out of my chest.

I’m screaming and looking for something to kill it with, and he says, “Kill it with your hand!” I smashed it and screamed again cuz I was afraid that either a) I didn’t get it and it fell on the floor somewhere, or b) that I did and I got spider guts on me. It was awful. I finally see it on the side of the mattress, and can’t tell if it is sitting there waiting to crawl on me again, or if it is dead and is stuck to the mattress with its gross little spidey guts.

Phyl hands me a Kleenex to grab it with, and of course, I drop the Kleenex. It falls way over by the wall, and in order to pick it up, I have to practically be eyeball to eyeball with said spider. What a predicament! Shoulda just asked for another Kleenex. Hello. 

Fortunately, the spider is dead. Unfortunately, I feel like his smashed guts are sending out little spider signals to all the other spiders in the room, telling them to come and crawl on me.  You know how when you kill a yellow jacket, all of a sudden, they bombard you from everywhere because when you kill the first one, it releases something that alerts all the other ones?  Like that, only for spiders.

So then, for the next hour and a half, I can’t sleep. Every tickle the blanket makes feels like another bug on me. I want to stay covered up so nothing can crawl on me, but then I’m dying of heat and thinking something is still under the covers with me.  So I flip the covers off, but then I feel like I'm sending out a beacon to any bugs in the room - *meep. meep.  come crawl on me.  meep. meep*  I can't take it.  So I cover up again.  Back and forth.  All night.

It was horrible. It must have been snuggled up under my covers with its speedy little spidey legs. Oh, gross. It creeps me out every time I think about it. So disgusting. Gah! And then I DREAMED about spiders. I did not rest well last night.

I asked Erica this morning if my screaming and pounding on the wall woke her up, and she said didn’t hear a thing. Lucky her. She also informed me that according to something she read online, you are never farther than three feet from a spider. Waahh!! Please oh please, maybe that’s not true. You can’t believe everything you read. It can’t be true.

And what about that statistic that says everyone eats at least a few spiders in their sleep? Yuk. I don’t buy that one at all. No way. I would so know if something crawled on my face. That is just some sadistic creep saying that to gross all of us spider freakies out.

So, how didjy’all sleep last night?