Monday, March 28, 2011

Four Course Valentine's Dinner

Main Course: Brown Rice and Mushroom  Stuffed Tofu Smothered in a Mushroom-Tofu Gravy
     With the snowboarding season more than halfway done, I've been really busy trying to hit triple digits this year. The procession of storms hasn't helped, either. I'm on day 69, so just 33 more days and I'll reach my goal. But stayed tuned, I've also been busy doing restaurant and product reviews, not to mention a HUGE backlog of photos to upload. So here's one from my Valentine's dinner. I checked the local restaurants and wasn't impressed with the menu (fresh linguine) so I decided to make my own dinner. It was a lot of work and took nearly the entire day. It gave me a lot of respect for my mom and all the hard work she put into meals, especially around Thanksgiving.
First Course: Spinach, Beet, and Orange Salad with Ginger-Agave Dressing
     This recipe comes from The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook by Neal Barnard, MD of The Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, an excellent organization who promotes a plant-based diet for health reasons. I'll be honest, I was a bit skeptical, which is why I borrowed the book from the library. Barnard promotes a low-fat vegan diet as key to improving one's health. Low-fat and vegan don't seem to mix for me, but Barnard and co-author Robyn Webb's recipes are so amazing that you wouldn't know the difference. The dressing for this salad doesn't have any oil, but it's not missing an ounce of flavor. I also never cooked beets before and, boy, are they a lot of work. Well, time really. It took about an hour and a half to cook the beets, but the results were worth it. Generally, I tend to lean on the boring side of salads with lettuce, carrots and dressing. This recipe showed me I could add fruit. I would make this salad a staple, but maybe switch out the baby spinach for a spring mix or 50/50 mix.
Second Course: Very Gingery Pear and Sweet Potato Soup
     Another great recipe from The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook: 125 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Jump-Start Weight Loss and Help You Feel Great. This recipe uses three types of ginger: powdered, candied and fresh. I love ginger, but it was too much for the special one. I would definitely make this again, but I would leave the peels on the sweet potatoes and pears since I used organic varieties. The soup might not be as smooth, but I think I would still be great. Plus, the prep time would be even less! The recipe made a lot so I had enough left over for a warm treat when I got off the hill.
Third Course: Main Course: Brown Rice and Mushroom Dressing Stuffed Tofu
     Here is a picture of the stuffed tofu before baking. The recipe is from I've had this on my favorites for a while and I thought it would be an excellent centerpiece. I just didn't realize the amount of time it would take since you have to make the stuffing and the dressing. However, the end results were worth it. It kinda had a Thanksgiving feel to it, so perhaps I would try this again for a different holiday.
 Stuffing Tofu
      Before you can stuff tofu, you need to hollow it out. Fatfree Vegan has an excellent step-by step instructions that were easy to follow. It was fun and might open up the possibilities for future creations.She recommends Asian tofu, but homemade tofu would be perfect for this recipe.
Brown Rice and Mushroom Stuffing
     This is the brown rice and mushroom stuffing that went into the tofu. First, it was cooked like traditional rice. Then, it went into the tofu. The leftover rice was then baked to be spooned around the tofu. The first part took a lot longer then the recipe called for. I think I had too much moisture in the sauce pot or too low heat. It's been a while since I cooked rice in a pot so I'm not sure. Next time, I would just put it in the rice cooker.
Tofu-Mushroom Gravy 
    Gravy is a godsend. I'm always looking for a better gravy. Not just for mashed potatoes, but biscuits and gravy, too. Well, lots of other uses. With the pieces of tofu and mushrooms, this was a hearty gravy. Smothering the tofu and stuffing with the gravy really made the dish come together.
Jalapeno Cornbread Biscuits
      The special one loves cornbread so I thought this would go excellent with the main course. The recipe comes from Vegan Brunch: Homestyle Recipes Worth Waking Up For. The only problem is that I left them on the counter when I served the main course. These were excellent, but I would leave in the jalapeno seeds to give them more of a kick. I bet these would be outstanding with the smoked almond gravy from Vegan Brunch.
Fourth Course: Green Tea Ice Cream 
     This recipe comes from Lick It! Creamy Dreamy Vegan Ice Creams Your Mouth Will Love. I found green tea powder in the Asian market and it's not cheap. This recipe uses three tablespoons, about half of the container. The flavor is really intense like licking green tea leaves, but I think I would halve the amount of green tea powder for future batches.
Bebida: Mumm Napa Brut Prestige 
      I don't know much about wine and champagne. So I rely on the experts. When I saw Mumm Napa in the liquor store along with a high rating ( #48 Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2010 and 92 Points in Wine Enthusiast), I decided to give it a whirl. I'm not sure, I paired it perfectly. Regardless, it was excellent and put an exclamation point on the evening. I would recommend it. Plus, it comes from Napa Valley, a definite perk.

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