Monday, December 11, 2006

No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

No Child Left Behind is coming up for reauthorization in 2007. I encourage you to go to this website: A Petition Calling for the Dismantling of the No Child Left Behind Act. It has some information on why it's a bad law. Even if you choose not to sign the petition, which is open to all U.S. citizens, please read the information so that you can be informed about some of the problems wrong with this legislation.

Basically, each state sets its own standards for curriculum, what is taught in schools at various grades, and the criteria for becoming a teacher. NCLB is an attempt to standardize that for all fifty states. It has functioned poorly. In my opinion, it has been disastrous for public education in this country. There are many problems with public education, to be sure, but NCLB is not the solution. I encourage you to sign the petition. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Vegan Peppermint Ice Cream

I previously posted a Vegan Pumpkin Ice Cream recipe that I am now only moderately happy with, but I promise that you'll like this one.

3 cups plain Silk creamer
1/3 cup oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp xanthum gum
2 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 cup sandwich-type cookies, crushed (4 Candy Cane Joe-Joe's)

In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients except the cookies. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to its instructions. During the last five minutes, add the crushed cookies.

I've been making vegan ice creams for a little while now, but it was one of those synchronicity things that got me to this point. I found a great recipe in The Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfeld. It was for a peanut butter banana ice cream. The author provided a recipe that included heating the ingredients and using arrowroot powder as a thickener. She also provided an alternative method that did not require heating and used xanthum gum. Around this same time, I bought some Mudslinger's Freestyle vegan ice cream. Reading the ingredients, I noticed the use of xanthum and/or guar gum. Then because it was designated a Blog of Note, I visited A Vegan Ice Cream Paradise. Which made me intrigued about making soy ice cream with a soy creamer rather than silken tofu.

So, I picked up some Bob's Red Mill xanthum gum; I quit using silken tofu in my ice creams, and replaced it with Silk creamer. This is the best vegan ice cream I've made so far; I'm really pleased with the texture of it, it stays creamy and doesn't get so icy, and the flavor is fantastic.

Christmas Music Interlude #2

Last weekend, I added more Christmas songs to my MP3 player. I am now up to 333 songs. Jingle Bells is still #1 with 20 versions; I included Lionel Hampton's Swingle Jingle this time. At #2 again is Winter Wonderland with 16 different versions. Tied at #3 is White Christmas and The Christmas Song with 15 versions each. Rising up to #4 is Silent Night, with 11 versions, including Enya's Oiche Chiun. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is at #5 with 10 versions. There is a three-way tie for 6th place with 9 versions each of Sleigh Ride, Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, and Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Joining the list at #7 is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with 8 versions. Blue Christmas is still #8 with 7 versions. And there is anothe tie for 9th place with What Are You Doing New Year's Eve and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen with 6 versions each.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Italian Stuffing

Here is the Italian stuffing recipe from my mother-in-law:

1 lb. hamburger
1 package Jimmie Dean
1 large onion, diced
2 cups Minute Rice
6 eggs
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
Lawrey's seasoning salt

Cook rice. Cook hamburger, sausage, and onion; after cooked, drain. Mix all ingredients in pan and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

I don't know how authentically Italian this is, but it is one dish my wife loves and we have incorporated it into our holiday meals. This year, I attempted a vegan version of it:

1 package (12 oz.) Smart Ground "hamburger crumbles"
1 14 oz. package Gimme Lean sausage
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
2 cups Minute Rice - brown
1 1/2 cups silken tofu
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup plain soymilk
1 cup vegan parmesan
Lawry's seasoning salt, to taste

Brown the sausage with the onion and garlic; add hamburger to warm through. Cook rice while you're browning the sausage. In a food processor or blender, combine silken tofu, nutritional yeast, and soymilk until smooth. Mix all ingredients in pan and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

I'll probably still play with this, but I was really trying to duplicate the recipe as faithfully as I could and make it vegan.

Lawry's seasoning salt consists of salt, sugar, paprika, turmeric, onion, and garlic. I may replace it with my own homemade seasoning mix of those spices in the future.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Vegan Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

So, here's what we had for Thanksgiving this year:

Of course, we had the Unturkey by Now & Zen. Sadly, it now appears that they have gone out of business. Someone over at Vegan Represent first told me the news, and Now & Zen's website is now gone.

I made three different stuffings this year. First, I veganized my mother-in-law's italian stuffing. I also made the Wild Mushroom Stuffing from Robin Robertson's Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. I also made Giada De Laurentiis' Ciabatta Stuffing, again veganized.

For our vegetable side dishes, I made Sweet Cinnamon-Maple Glazed Baby Carrots from Nava Atlas' Vegetarian Family Cookbook. I also made Brussels sprouts from Rachael Ray's recipe.

You also have to have mashed potatoes, so I cooked up some yukon golds. And we also opted to use Rachael Ray's recipe for Smashed Sweet Potatoes this year rather than baked sweet potatoes.

My mom usually makes macaroni and cheese, but this year, I made a vegan version so I could have some too. I used a cheezy sauce adapted from the Joanne Stepaniank's UnCheese Cookbook. To that, we added some vegan cheese, topped it all with some bread crumbs and baked the whole thing for twenty minutes at 350 degrees.

To top it all off, I made sweet potato pie. I'm still working on this recipe; when I get it down to my satisfaction, I'll post it.