Thursday, January 28, 2010

Coffee Houses & Adventures in Cooking: Vegan Sushi!

Today I hung out with Alan and our good friend Brian! I was basically snarfing down my breakfast when Brain called complaining of being bored. So Alan and I hopped into the car and picked him up. Then we mulled over where the hell to go (such is life!). Brian had the idea of going to a coffee shop, and new of a pretty cool local one in Roswell. So off we went to go grab some coffee house goodness!

The place is called the Land of a Thousand Hills Coffe Co. Turns out these guys roast their own coffee beans, and ship of thousands of pounds a week! They have a slogan which is "Drink Coffee. Do Good." and it made me smirk a little considering a past company I worked for. However, these guys actually mean it! According to the Roswell locations website, The company pays their coffee growers in Rwanda higher than Fair Trade prices, use their profits to invest in sustainable village projects in Rwanda like micro-finance loans for widows, sustenance farms for orphans, medical care, and soccer fields. If you're interested in checking them out head over to! I also suggest checking out the coffee house itself. It's awesome and the drinks there are even better!

Speaking of drinks, I got a Chai Latte with soy. Alan got an espresso thing, because he's a caffeine fiend and Brian got the French Roast coffee. Apparently when they ask you what kind of coffee you want at this place - you have the option of small, medium, or large - they bring you out a freaking coffee pot based on the size you get. Brain got a medium and it was kinda huge. Not what I was expecting when he told me he paid four bucks for it. I'm not sure if he drank all of it but I think he did! They also have a great selection of baked goods there too. Some are gluten free and I'm almost certain they had a vegan selection as well! Brian got a chocolate chip, and Alan and I shared a Lemon Poppyseed. I didn't get a shot of the Lemon Poppyseed, because by the time Alan came over to the table with it, he'd eaten most of the top off. Boys... So we chilled for a while, drawing, and talking and with me annoying the boys by taking pictures.

By the time we got out of there, 5pm was rolling around. I asked Alan if perhaps we could get the stuff to make sushi, and he begrudgingly obliged.

You see Alan and I had a bit of a mini war going on. I wanted to make sushi because I thought it would be fun. Alan wasn't sure we'd be able to make it because he was convinced it was too complicated. Then I found a recipe for sushi rice in Mark Bittman's book. Alan 0. Carrie 1! We grabbed a bamboo place mat from Pier 1, because Whole Foods didn't have sushi mats (hint hint to anyone who cares). We grabbed up the ingredients and trotted home.

I got started right away and it was AWESOME!

It's so pretty~!
Recipe for Vegan Sushi

1 1/2 cups short grain rice freshly cooked
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Nori Sheets(pre toasted if you can find it)
Fillings Pre-chopped/prepared & cool (I used varying combinations of carrot,cucumber,avocado,alfalfa sprouts,cooked asparagus, and 1/4 of a package of cooked Gimme Lean. You can use just about anything though!)
A shallow bowl filled with cold water and ice

1. Get your rice cooking and while it gets ready, grab a small sauce pan. Put your rice vinegar into the sauce pan, followed by the sugar and then the salt. Stir over a medium heat until salt and sugar have fully dissolved away. This should take maybe 5 minutes. Remove the sauce pan from the stovetop and place into a shallow bowl filled with ice and cold water. Stir off and on while it cools off.
2. Once the rice is ready throw it into a big mixing bowl. You may want to use the biggest one you have because this gets messy. Dump the hot rice into the mixing bowl. With a wooden spoon, or mixing spatula start mixing the rice like you would if you were folding egg whites into a dough, ONLY FASTER. Sprinkle a bit of the vinegar mixture into the rice as you mix it up. The idea is that you need to add the vinegar as the rice cools. If your mixing utensil gets rice stuck all over it, run it under cold water, dry it off and then go about mixing and adding more of the vinegar mixture. I tasted the rice as I went, making sure it wasn't too vinegary. I only used about half the vinegar mixture myself, but it's to your taste so add more or less depending on what you like. Once I got the amount of vinegar in that I liked, I still found that the sushi rice was still pretty hot. I threw the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes to help it cool.
3. Once your rice is cool, take a sheet of Nori and place it on a sushi mat (I used a bamboo placemat that could easily be rolled up). If you have any excess vinegar mixture add water to it and use this to help keep the rice from sticking to your fingers. Otherwise, just mix a small thing of rice vinegar and water together. Spread a thin layer of the rice over the sheet of nori. I left about 1/2 an inch on every side. Add your filling but BE CAREFUL not to add too much! Mark Bittman had a tip: Think of the rice as the main dish and the filling as the spices. Place your fillings inside on one end.
4. Once ready, fold the mat up and slowly begin to curl the nori over itself. You're rolling the nori much like you might roll a piece of paper. Wet the last bit of exposed nori before you close everything off. This keeps things stuck together a bit firmer. Now you have a sushi roll!
5. Once you've made your roll, take a very sharp knife and cut off the excess on the ends. The good thing about being a chef is that you can eat these remnants much like you would excess cookie dough. Yum! Once the long rolls are cut even at one end (bunching may occur that's okay), cut into pieces about an inch wide. Arrange on a plate with your choice of pickled ginger and wasabi (we were lame and didn't use any).
6. Serve immediately with soy sauce. Make whoever didn't cook do the dishes.

Note: Sushi rice doesn't keep well, so make sure you make enough for what you're going to use. Anything you don't use should be thrown out (putting it in the fridge will only dry the rice out and make the fridge smell vinegary).

We really enjoyed the sushi! Brian is one of the best cooks I know, and I always love his food. When he told me that he really liked the sushi I was ecstatic! Alan loved it too, so much so that he didn't really bother with the chopsticks I brought him and just ate with his hands. I can't blame him for that really.

So today was pretty awesome. I have 2 tattoo designs to finish up tomorrow for a client. I may just post them here once they're done!

Oh! And for anyone wondering, yes I took these pictures, and if you want to find more of my photography head over to my flickr account!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Adventures in Cooking! Vegetarian Wraps!

In keeping with my resolution to actually USE this blog, here's a post with some actual content (*GASP*) & photographic evidence!

Hubby and I have been eating in a lot more lately due to some financial constraints. This is actually a VERY good thing as I'm starting to have fun whipping up all kinds of stuff, and learning new skills! Today we went for smoothies while running errands and when we got home, we were hungry but didn't want something heavy. So I made us veggie wraps!

First off I boiled two eggs. I know this is a simple thing, you just...throw eggs in a pot and boil. However, I'm paranoid and wanted to be sure I was doing it right. Alan and I bought a book about 2 years ago by a gentleman named Mark Bittman. He's amazing and every recipe I've tried from his book
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, is amazing. I really really recommend it to anyone looking for awesome veggie recipes! in the book he talks about how boiling eggs can kinda suck because, as they boil the shells can crack causing a huge mess and then they can be fairly hard to shell warm. So following Marks suggestions here's what I did:

1. Filled a sauce pan with the appropriate amount of water, enough to submerge them but not completely. I then placed the eggs in the pan and let the water come to a boil.
2. Once the water was boiling I turned the stove off and covered, letting sit for about 9 minutes.
3. As the eggs were cooking, I put a bowl in the sink and filled with cold water. I added a few ice cubes to make it colder. I then started preparing the rest of the stuff for the wraps.
4. Once the timer went off I grabbed a pair of tongs and fished out the eggs placing them into the cold ice water. This pretty much puts a stop to the heat and cools off the egg, thus keeping it from cooking itself.
5. I let them sit in the ice water while I put everything else together and once ready for them I peeled off the shell. The shells came off SUPER easy too!

So YAY Mark Bittman!

What's in the Veggie Wraps:

1 tortilla wrap
1 egg sliced (for added protein. To make it Vegan use nuts such as walnuts, almonds or even cashews!)
1/2 a medium avocado sliced
1 medium sized mushroom sliced
1 or 2 tbsp of your favorite hummus
1/3 cup (give or take) of Salad greens
1 handful of alfalfa sprouts
Dash of Cumin, Paprika, Red Pepper, and Coriander
1 tbsp of your favorite Salad dressing (mine happens to be a Garlic and Rosemary Vinaigrette)
Salt & pepper

How to make them:

1. Take your tortilla wrap and place on plate, heat it up in the microwave for about 10 seconds or until warm and floppy. Be sure to add the following ingredients quickly. As the tortilla cools it will start to firm back up which can make folding a hassle.
2. Spread hummus off-center of the wrap. Sprinkle with cumin, paprika, red pepper, and coriander.
3. Place sliced mushrooms on top of the hummus. Some of you may wish to grill or saute the mushrooms which would probably taste orgasmic! Please let me know if you do!
4. Spread sprouts over the mushrooms and follow with the avocado slices.
5. Place your salad greens, and sliced eggs (or nuts! Or both!) on top.
6. Sprinkle with your favorite salad dressing. Salt and Pepper to taste!
7. Here's the kinda hard part, the folding. The way I make wraps is actually more like a burrito roll as I learned this technique by watching the folks at Chipotle do their thing. Fold one side of the tortilla over the filling, and using the tortilla to keep your hands clean(ish), drag everything back. This should sort of push the filling under your palms or just before them. Press the sides down as though gently karate chopping and force the filling to bunch together. This should also form a small flap on both sides. Fold these flaps up, so they're more or less on top. At this point there should be a bit of clear tortilla left (it's okay if there's some hummus or spices on it). Roll the wrap forward. You'll have a little seam on one side. Allow the wrap to rest with most of it's weight on the seam and let the tortilla cool for a minute or so.
8. Follow my husbands example...

The poor wrap didn't survive 2 minutes after I gave him the plate. Oh the cruel fate of food.

Alan's particularly happy with the changes we've made to our diet. As I loose centimeter by centimeter, he's loosing inch by inch.As of January 2nd he's lost 25 pounds, and enough inches to fit into the button down shirts he wore in college! Now if only my weight would start dropping that fast!



New years resolutions. Generally I don't make them but this year after some thought (well after the party by now) I got to thinking about them. Resolutions can be hard, but it's only a method of trying to improve yourself so why not give it a shot? The worst that can happen is one will just find themselves improved only a 'little bit'. A 'little bit' is a step forward though, so here's my resolutions for this year!

1. Take a photo at least every single day
2. Eat healthier and greener. To me means eating mainly vegetarian foods with local, organic ingredients.
3. Be more active
4. Photograph a wedding
5. Make as many networking connections as possible
6. Post on my blog more often
7. Design at least 3 tattoos for clients (I've got one down only 2 more to go!)
8. Update my portfolio website

I figure these are things that I can get done at some point this year. Off I go!