Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Look Over There!

No, not there. There!

I've moved elsewhere. Join me!

Jared

Sunday, June 12, 2011

a tale of two kales

Quite the pun-like subject, right? Like any good vegan, I enjoy kale immensely. My favorite reasons would be that it has a host of health benefits and takes on other flavors easily while still holding its own. It's also fairly inexpensive (I get a big bag of chopped, washed kale for $2, although when not available I will buy organic and do that crap myself for more money).


More often than any other usage, I throw kale into a green smoothie and call it a Green Monster. I have a magical combination of not measuring non-dairy milk, ground flax, massive amounts of kale, a frozen banana, and an apple into my awesome blender. It's refreshing and clean without tasting too healthy, if you catch my drift.


We recently subscribed to a CSA. I'm sure you've heard all about these in the blogosphere. Shares usually begin in May (ours was the last week in May) and my family has enjoyed the vast amounts of quality produce. We've received different varieties of lettuce, collards, strawberries (absolutely perfect ones this week, the best strawberries I have ever tasted), cherries (not as great, waiting for next week), dill, and garlic scape (similar to a green onion/garlic hybrid). So far I am very pleased with our full share from Great Country Farms!


I wanted to make something different because we received such a massive quantity of kale. I remembered that when testing for the new HH cookbook, I had made a recipe for Kale a la Maryland, or Fisherman's Kale. I took a spin off of that recipe by sauteing kale in vegetable broth until it was bright green and topping it with a liberal amount of old bay, salt, and pepper. I turned off the heat and drizzled over the juice of half a lemon. It made eating a large plate of kale so incredibly easy.


I've made kale chips before, twice from Mama Pea's recipe. Hers is fairly involving (I do not have a dehydrator) but the results are worth it -- crispy kale pieces that are so flavorful and tasty, they are all gone that afternoon. I found a less time consuming recipe, and video, from KathEats and prepared it using different seasonings on each batch. I tried curry powder, nutritional yeast, old bay, and an italian seasoning blend. I think I liked the curry/nooch combo best. The flavor wasn't as intensified as Mama Pea's develops more with the tahini and other flavors, but these did the trick.

It's actually quite funny, I don't think I ever would have tried kale had I not decided to incorporate a vegan diet into my lifestyle. I really believe the blogging community has done a lot to share and make positive suggestions for people to get to know new things, whether it be techniques, foods, cuisines, or mechanisms  -- I currently have my eye on a pressure cooker...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

carrot cake madness!

Last week I invited my friends Natalie and Sasha over to experiment with more vegan baking. I guess experiment isn’t quite the word, seeing as I’ve become quite the seasoned vegan baker as of late, and that’s just what I’ve blogged about! Actually, I may (or may not) have baked every test recipe for the new HH book. I’ll have to post about my favorite recipes when the book is released at the end of the year! Until then, I hope you like carrot cake!
I didn’t always enjoy carrot cake. What drew me in was the cream cheese frosting. Cream cheese frosting is my favorite frosting by a landslide. Sweet, creamy, and slightly tangy, it has been my favorite for some time. I’ve made cream cheese swirl brownies and iced many a cupcake with cream cheese spread. I’ve been pleased with the Tofutti product, although not really its ingredients list, the taste is fantastic and truly similar. At any rate, I’ve come to enjoy the taste of raisins, shredded carrots, and a mild cake flavor covered in creamy frosting.
IMAG0058
I’ve amassed three distinctly different recipes over the past year or so and have yet to make a vegan carrot cake. I have made two vegan carrot cake pancake recipes, both of which were very good, but never an actual cake (or cupcakes). I decided to tackle all three one afternoon to determine the best! One disclaimer: I frosted them all per Mama Pea’s frosting recipe, although I did add the lemon zest in last to ice OSG’s.
Third Place: Angela (Oh She Glows) Carrot Cake Loaf (pictured in the loaf pan, naturally). Angela’s recipe was a brilliant combination of healthy flours (spelt and ww) with natural sweeteners. But the taste didn’t wow me. It also did not hold up very well over time. I had it covered/refrigerated and served it three days later, only to find it fairly dry. It went unfinished. This loaf may have been best served immediately, and I give her some props for the healthy recipe, but it was simply not the best.
IMAG0059
Second Place: Lindsay (The Happy Herbivore) Carrot Cake Cupcakes (pictured as cupcakes in the zig-zag pattern). Lindsay has prided these as being one of her new most popular recipes from the HH cookbook. Always a fan for a fat-free dessert, I knew I needed to try these. When the time came, I finally examined the recipe and was fairly disappointed. One large carrot to make a dozen cupcakes? I felt as though these fell short in nutrition. I’m not looking to eat a salad in a dessert, but the other recipes really bulked up on the carrot count. Needless to say, these lacked in the taste department. There was not really enough discernable carrot flavor for me. I may have had to tell someone that tried them that they were actually carrot cake cupcakes. Nevertheless, they tasted very good, and not anywhere close to fat-free. Light, fluffy, and some added flavor from the spices. I would add two more carrots and definitely make these again.
First Place: Sarah (Peas & Thank You) Carrot Cake Squares (pictured in the 8x8 pan). Sarah’s take is most interesting seeing as she calls for the carrots to be steamed first and then blended. She garnered the most amount of carrots in her recipe and, in turn, the maximum carrot taste. But it wasn’t overwhelming, it was just right. I also enjoyed the raisins in her recipe. While she did use earth balance, it really made these decadent and not terribly caloric or fatty. I could serve these to an omnivore and they would have no idea they were vegan. She “take the cake”, so to speak. I have always had good fortune with her desserts.
IMAG0060
My friends never got to try them as they needed to cool and we all had other plans before frosting. More cake for my co-workers and family friends!

Friday, April 29, 2011

VYY: Apple Cranberry Salad w/ Country Fried Seitan

I'm not a lover of seitan, if you can't quite remember. But I decided I would give it another shot. A new cookbook, a new method, and a new type of dish. Why not.

Ms. Ulm's Seitan recipe was not as involving as the one in V'con. Surprisingly it was a few ingredients to add, mix, braise, and then fry. I felt as though I was constantly boiling the other recipe, and this one advised against boiling as it would be "spongy and rubbery". Very interesting. She and Isa should have a seitan-off. I wouldn't want to attend that one, though.

I didn't like this one very much either. I liked the crispy texture, although you could fry anything and I'd probably enjoy it. I did not deep fry it as she suggested, rather I decided to shallow fry, and it was crisp and delicious. But I couldn't get over the texture of the seitan itself. It just doesn't have much flavor and is awkwardly chewy.


I did, however, take two different pictures. And I enjoyed the addition of fruits. The dressing was good as well, although too bitter for me. I added a teaspoon or two of agave to sweeten it up, it was almost a honey mustard dressing with some nuttiness from the almonds. If you like seitan, you'll probably like this recipe. It was a bit involving but the salad was well balanced with flavor, texture, color, and nutritional value.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

VYY: Sweet Chili Lime Tofu

Last night for dinner I did up some tofu. Love me some tofu. It's incredibly versatile and I love how the texture can get manipulated. I bought one of these guys a few months ago after I started seeing them everywhere. I haven't turned back since.


(I'm even pressing tofu right now for tonight!) Half an hour in this thing makes all the difference. I usually do at least an hour or two, even overnight if I remember. I highly recommend it. The Tofu Xpress is somewhat expensive, but if you make tofu about once a week like I do, you're bound to save time and plates/odd weights/whatever else you used to get all that water out of it.


The marinade is prepared to allow the flavors to blend before it blankets the tofu. Lime, red pepper flakes, garlic, tamari, and others are tossed together. Personally, when tasting it before and after, I felt as though it was missing ginger. Maybe I am just a ginger-holic now.


This recipe called for the tofu to be dry-fried first. This is a technique I am fairly familiar with -- you allow a pan to get very hot and sear the tofu on all sides. But the creative way that Lauren has you dice the tofu into these perfect little triangles is fantastic and makes for such a great texture. The pieces absorbed so much great flavor yet remained crisp. It is served on a bed of lime infused quinoa and collards (or in my case kale, and even Ms. Ulm says you can substitute!) that made for an awesome bowl of greens/grains over some really tasty tofu.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

VYY: Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

I've never baked bread before. Not once. Bread baking has been all the rage in the blogging world as of late. I've been meaning to make Jen's recipe for a few weeks now and Allie has sworn by baking her own bread as well. When I opened VYY and realized I had Sunday off work for Easter, I knew I had the perfect opportunity.

I JUST LOOKED THROUGH MY GALLERY AND REALIZED I NEVER PHOTOGRAPHED THE AWESOME BREAD I BAKED. *insert obscenities here*


Oh well. It was delicious. My family raved about it. It's gone, btw.

The recipe itself was pretty labor intensive. I felt like it took my whole day, although it was almost entirely inactive. I will probably bake it again though, it was that good and not too difficult. The pages looked a little daunting, but I would recommend it. The instructions and immense amount of helpful photographs made it easy. I don't own a bread-maker but felt confident that my bread would turn out great. And it did.

Do you make bread? What's your favorite recipe?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

VYY: Blueberry Waffles with Lemon Icing

Doesn't the recipe in the title just sound fantastic? I couldn't resist. Nope. Not havin' it!


Vegan Yum Yum is the new book selected for The Vegan Cookbook Club. I am already a pretty big fan of this book. The recipes are fairly creative and interesting, but "doable". Some require many steps/pages but aren't too bad. I'm not sure all of them are every day, but the majority of them certainly are. I love the layout of the book with its colorful pages, fonts, and pictures. But enough about this beautiful book...I'll talk it up in about a month or so for a full review.

I'm a big fan of breakfast. I go up and down about it, but in the end, it's a meal I love. As of late I've been doing a juice or smoothie and then some toast and yogurt. When I have the time (i.e. a day off, which I get usually 2-3 per week) I like to make something a little more labor intensive. Sometimes that's HH's super easy French Toast. When I get tired of that, I like to get some new flavors in. I turned to this wonderful plate.


Gorgeous, right? The icing was easy and I garnished the plate with fresh blueberries. I'm not even a blueberry lover and I ate two of those with ease. The waffles weren't exactly light and fluffy, but they weren't super dense either. They were somewhere in between. If you are an "I NEED MY WAFFLES TO BE THIN AS AIR" type of person, you'll probably want to mix these delicately in order to achieve that consistency. I, however, am very content with a somewhat crisp waffle.


Simply beautiful. You can say that again!

Do you like to mix up your everyday breakfast with something snazzy on an off day?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Skinny Bitch Cookbook Club Review

Here's my full review of Skinny Bitch: The Ultimate Everyday Cookbook for the Vegan Cookbook Club.

The Good:
The book itself is aesthetically pleasing. Warm colors, accents, and a nice font are used. I enjoy Kim's casual and "bitchin" language, I find it approachable and funny, although I know for some she can be a bit strong. There is a wealth of information in the front of the book, including Kim's story, sustainability, and of course many recommendations about Kim's favorite vegan substitutions. A section that would probably be very helpful to new cooks would be her "Herb + Spices Chart O' Fun" which gives pairings and results to people new to cooking with fresh flavorings.
Kim is also exceptionally creative in her recipes and creates food that is visually stunning. I enjoyed the recipe titles, use of ingredients, and methods for achieving vegan food that is more than a raw salad. She elevates cuisine to make it creamy, decadent, and not what many would consider "vegan food". Besides that, the photography is fantastic and makes you want to cook the food she published.

The Food:
I prepared the Breakfast Bake (p. 78) and also the Banana & Cinnamon Muffins (p.77) and blogged about them. I made the Pasta, Navy Bean, and Spinach Soup (p. 97) which was very good. I substituted the spinach for kale as I had it on hand and enjoyed how it held up in the soup. The soup was hearty and included beans, greens, and grains I enjoy seeing in recipes. I also did not blog about the Greek Salad with Tzatziki Sauce (p. 129) which had great flavors as well, although it was way too time consuming.

The Bad:
I don't consider this book to be low-fat or everyday by any means. None of the recipes I prepared were terribly easy -- they all required some significant knife-work, and more often than not, I'm not looking to laboriously chop veg. The recipes aren't structured to be "easy", many require several bowls and excessive steps, making clean-up laborious. I wouldn't want to make many of the recipes in this book on a busy weeknight.
Aside from the time issue, I found the calorie/fat counts to be a bit much. I don't count my calories, but I am interested in curbing them. I didn't find many of these recipes to be on the healthy side. Oil is used frequently and I'd rather utilize "good" fats over bad ones in my diet. I don't believe that vegetables were really brought to the forefront of these dishes, many relying on sauces and other vehicles to become more enticing. I look for a hearty and nutritious combination of beans/greens/grains as often as possible in meals, and this standard rarely hit in this cookbook.
Unfortunately, this cookbook bills itself for everyday cooking and, in my opinion, misses the mark entirely.

The Bottom Line:
I'm thinking this book would be intended for someone that purchased Skinny Bitch (or Skinny Bastard) and is a brand new vegan looking to delve into what this lifestyle has to offer. There is a great amount of information in the front of the book, most of which I have learned from my time reading blogs over the past year+. That being said, a more affordable option than this book would be a vegan starter's guide, looking over blogs that provide one or seeking one from a non-profit that provides many recipes and tips for new vegans. I probably wouldn't give this book to anyone or recommend it simply because I don't believe it lends itself to everyday cooking.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

SB Review: Banana & Cinnamon Muffins

I've baked banana bread and banana muffins frequently, probably more in the 1.5 years I've been vegan. I guess I had no problem getting one at Starbucks or anywhere else, but now that doing so is not nearly as easy, I've adjusted to baking my own. I definitely prefer this as I know what truly goes inside them, so I control the nutrition in terms of sugar/fat and even the flavorings. It's also much less expensive. These are definitely added benefits I've attained since transitioning to a vegan diet.

Yesterday I had a few almost black and rotten ripened bananas sitting on my countertop so I knew they would get mashed up and make their way into a muffin. Normally I would chop and freeze them for green monsters but as of late I've been juicing for the past two weeks. I cracked open Skinny Bitch to see if it had a recipe, and like many vegan cookbooks, it did.


I appreciate the blurb about bananas, I never knew that they "stimulate the brain for optimal learning and memory". But why would Kim only include 2 bananas for a recipe that serves 12 muffins? I think that makes barely a bite of a banana per muffin. Not too much brain power, Ms. Barnouin.

This recipe included 1/4 c. earth balance, which I subbed half out for applesauce. I subbed out the all purpose flour for whole wheat pastry flour. I also cut the sugar from 3/4 c. down to about 1/4 c. as I knew my bananas would be very naturally sweet. I made most of these changes because I basically freaked out when I saw that the serving size (one muffin) contains a whopping 300 CALORIES and 14 GRAMS OF FAT. That's a bit disturbing. Now I know there are 1/3 c. walnuts that would account for some natural fat. But really? This bitch needs to shape up her recipes if she wants them to truly be "everyday" and "good for your bod".



For some odd reason, my batter made well over 12 muffins. I filled my muffin cups two-thirds of the way and still had enough for another dozen. I opted for a loaf (more likely because I did not want to use my odd mini one) and it made a sweet, petite loaf. These tasted delicious, and after my subbing out of the EB for some applesauce and the increased serving size that resulted (from what, I'm still not sure, I'm thinking Kim over-estimated the 2 2/3 cups of flour) I may have  knocked these down to about 6g fat per slice/muffin, which isn't all that bad.


As for the taste, they are delicious. The muffin texture is almost cake like, very soft and delicate. The cinnamon and vanilla really shine through, with a mellow banana taste. That being said, from what I referred to as my "fat kid mentality", I would rather eat six HH muffins that contain ~1g fat than only one of these.

Are you into muffins? // What else do you do with black bananas?

Friday, April 15, 2011

SB Review: Breakfast Bake

The Cookbook Club I participate in moved on to a new book:


This is a book I've had my eye on for months now. I've always seen it on display at bookstores and cracked it open to see what was going on. At first glance, many of the recipe ideas seem innovative and very filling sounding. I like Kim Barnouin's style after reading Skinny Bastard so knew I would give this a try, not to mention a good excuse to buy a new cookbook.

When I really got down to reading the recipes, I noticed that so many had several grams of fat and hefty calorie counts. This doesn't bother me immensely in cookbooks, except Skinny Bitch has a theme for being "great for your bod". I don't think recipes with significant added fat really have a place in this book. I've learned an entirely new way of cooking thanks to The Happy Herbivore that is entirely no-fat added cooking.

I made the Breakfast Bake from SB last weekend. I used GimmeLean sausage and Daiya cheddar shreds. I thought it was okay tasting, just extremely greasy. 2 tbsps of added oil to cook some vegetables is just way too much. Perhaps it was a typo from 2 tsps? My main complaint would be that the recipe was underwhelming. Typically this would be mixed with eggs as a typical brunch dish and I just felt as though the recipe left something to be desired. I expect some sort of mixture to encompass all of the other ingredients and really bring them together, and it never really happened.

How interested are you in fat-free cooking?

Friday, April 8, 2011

juicing it up!

The juicer I ordered arrived earlier this week! Big thanks go up to Miss Merideth for providing the contest I won -- a giftcard to CSNstores.com which enabled me to get a great discount on a high end juicer! I definitely wasn't expecting to win but I'm glad I did! I wouldn't have been able to easily afford this wonderful juicer. Here's what I purchased:


Isn't it so sleek and modern looking? I ordered the Breville BJE200xl after an endorsement from the lovely JL Goes Vegan and reviewing lots of customer feedback. I am definitely someone that looks for personal recommendations and combines lots of research into learning more about products before I make impulse decisions...but especially for those more than $50. I have no problem splurging on something under $10 that I don't know very much about, but when it is something that I have to invest in, I know I should do my own research.


Anyways, I've been really happy with it! My only concerns have been that it is large, a little loud, and overall cumbersome to clean (there are several parts and it must be cleaned ASAP). BUT I think all of those issues come with pretty much any juicer. I feel as though it is really effective at juicing large quantities and all the juice it has produced I have enjoyed immensely. It's slightly time consuming but I've used it every day since I received it! It's been a great start to my days as pre-breakfast or an afternoon pick-me-up.




Oh, here's the mountain of oranges I initially went through. Is there anything I can do with these now? LOL...

I haven't felt dramatically different, but I can definitely consider doing some sort of cleanse now. I do enjoy the fresh feeling of a fresh and fruity juice. I've enjoyed carrots (the most often) apples, celery, cucumber, oranges, and ginger all in different blends. I love that I can easily reap the benefits of such large quantities of these!

Are you cautiousabout your large purchases? // Are you a juice junkie? What is your favorite blend that I NEED to make!?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

AFR: Cookbook Review

I missed the deadline once again. Here's my recap anyways! I decided to follow CVL's template this time.


Layout
Is the layout clear?
I felt as though it was clear and easy to understand.
Are you able to easily tell the ingredients apart for the instructions and the notes?
Yes.
Are the instructions easy to follow?
Fairly. Sometimes I felt as though it moved too quickly.
Are the recipes numbered or is the section labeled?
Each section is broken down by recipe type.

Aesthetics
Does the cookbook feature photos?
Some, similar to V'con. I'd like to see more.
If yes, is there a photo for every recipe?
No.
Do the photos of the recipes look like the actual results?
They are slightly done up, but overall realistic.
What kind of paper is the book printed on?
A nice, thick print.
How is the quality of the photos?
Good.

Recipes
How many recipes are in the cookbook?
I have no idea how many haha. You definitely feel as though there are enough, though.
What kinds of recipes will you find in this cookbook?
A lot of ethnic recipes. This book really explores Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Asian, and so many other cuisines, giving you lots of experience with spices.
Is there a theme to the recipes?
That they are low in fat.
Are the recipes complex or simple? would they be good for seasoned cooks and/or beginners?
I felt as though the recipes were, for the most part, for beginners. Some were meant for more experienced cooks but I think someone that had prepared a few meals before would have no problem with the book itself.

Ingredients and supplies
Are the recipe ingredients easy to find?
For the most part. Some of the ingredients I was not able to find, but it was overall easy.
Are there any items that stand out as being expensive or specialty?
Not really. The book is surprisingly cost-effective...this isn't a selling point but I found it to be.
Are there particular appliances that will be required such as blenders, juicers, dehydrators, ect?

I believe a blender was frequently used for recipes. You could definitely be fine without one though.

Information
Does this cookbook provide additional useful information?

Lots of cooking tips and introductions to new ingredients.
What additional information beyond recipes does this cookbook include? Is it easy to follow?
Basic information for low-fat cooking.

Notes:
I really enjoyed cooking from this book. The recipes are so creative and the combinations that Isa creates are truly refreshing. I will continue to cook from it (and hopefully post!) as well as recommend this book to friends. I did enjoy it more than Veganomicon. I felt as though the majority of the recipes (whereas with V'con it was only some) are inexpensive, require only easy to find ingredients, and are, of course, low-fat. My first main concern with this book, however, is that so many recipes use oil. There are many other cookbook authors that use no added fats in their cooking, and while I suppose this is low-fat and not fat-free cooking, but those recipes weren't terribly low-fat. My second complaint, although I guess it is really only a comment, is that there are no low-fat desserts offered. I think everyone participating had a comment about this, I just thought that Isa should have come up with some, if not only a few, to make the cookbook itself more comprehensive. Again, the majority of her other dessert specialty cookbooks utilize oil, and I'd prefer to minimize that (and I know I'm not alone).

Monday, April 4, 2011

i now have 21 years of age.

To directly translate "I'm 21" in Spanish would be that "I have 21 years of age". This is something odd that always stuck out at me from when I learned Spanish in high school and I never incorrectly placed that verb on tests! I'll always remember that.

On a less foreign language note (I never liked Spanish anyways) I turned 21 last week! I realized after talking with someone that turning 21 is pretty much the most significant birthday I will celebrate for the rest of my life. I'm sure most of my readers are several years older than me, and I don't mean to offend you in any way, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this as well. It just seems like turning 30 doesn't have significant positive connotations to it (or 40, or 50...)

What are your thoughts on aging?

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Prelude to 21

A little story: I drafted a post over a week ago about brownie sundaes. I've made two recipes. Both left something to be desired. So the post is still a work in progress. I really want the perfect brownie. Or maybe I'll write a post about how I'm really conflicted between what I want in a brownie. At any rate, be prepared for some discussion of brownies.


Vegetables being sauteed before adding the quinoa! They cooked down in some vegetable stock before the quinoa joined the party and absorbed all the aromatic flavor. Quinoa deserves exclamation points!


The dishes originated from three creations: a southern-inspired tester recipe for the new HH cookbook as well as a sauce that I've made once before, and Evan's Quinoa Dressing. I made the recipe as described, except with vegetable stock instead of chicken broth. I didn't find the recipe especially flavorful or irresistible as Evan described it. It wasn't the best quinoa I've ever made, but it was good.


I liked this quinoa recipe for Indian Samosa Quinoa much better that I made last week. It had lots of great flavor and seasoning.


The next morning, for breakfast, I enjoyed Angela's Double Chocolate Sweet Potato Oatmeal. If she can put all of those amazing ingredients together and call it a healthy breakfast, I'll take it. It was absolutely fantastic. Surprisingly not too rich. I love being able to justify chocolate for breakfast.


Jaws says hi! She's enjoying a fruity alcohol concoction from CPK, where we went last week. And I'll be enjoying many things of the alcohol persuasion from Wednesday through the weekend as that's when I turn 21. :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

AFR: Bistro Broccoli Chowder

I made this last week. I'm forgetful and forgot to blog. I also forgot to take a picture! I don't know why, because this was a brilliant recipe. What an awesome combination of flavors. It was rich and creamy and savory and healthy. WINNER WINNER VEGAN SOUP FOR DINNER! =]

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

AFR: Hottie Black Eyed Peas & Greens

I typed out Hottie and keep wanting to say "Hootie"! Hootie, Hoo! If you're a top chef fan, you'd get it. I'm sad about Carla being gone, she's so cheerful and creative.


As I was eating this tasty Southern dish, I said to myself "I can't believe I'm eating something that is actually healthy!" This was really, really good. I used collards that held up well to the hot sauce, and the creaminess of the black-eyed peas is excellent. The onions/garlic add a nice depth, as they do in nearly every AFR creation. I can tell Isa loves them, and I do as well. Overall a very satisfying meal! I went back for seconds.

Pictured on the side is a tester recipe for the next HH book.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Turning a side dish into a dessert!

The reason I haven't been posting often, or making AFR recipes as often, is because I've been recipe testing for the next Happy Herbivore cookbook. I've been a huge fan of the first book and was excited to meet Lindsay last month at a brunch meetup in DC. She recently asked me to join a group of testers for her new book and I couldn't say no! I prepared eight recipes last week and several were beyond stellar. I can't wait until she debuts the new book!

Above is just one of many easy and healthy everyday meals I've made! I served the entree with its appropriate sauce, an easy cold salad side, and then some mashed sweet potatoes. I quickly threw together the mashed sweets by cutting them into a small dice and throwing them into boiling water -- they cooked in about 15 minutes! I simply mashed them with a splash of non-dairy milk and added salt and pepper when serving.

I'm not one to miss out on dessert. I love something sweet. Most of the time I use dessert as an incentive to cleaning up the kitchen, but while I was about to scoop the leftover mashed sweets into a container, I thought I should whip up a quick dessert and take advantage of something already cooked!


Sweet Potatoes Turned Dessert
1/2 c. cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp pecans, roughly chopped
cinnamon, nutmeg, and sea salt to taste
non-dairy milk
10 Dandies marshmallow

Stir together the sweet potatoes, most of the brown sugar, pecans, and spices together in a microwave safe bowl. You may want to mash all of your sweets if you left them somewhat chunky. Add in non-dairy milk as needed to achieve desired consistency (just a splash or so). Top with Dandies on top and then a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon. Microwave for 1 minute, watching the Dandies closely. You'll want them mostly melted through. Allow to cool slightly, then enjoy a revamped version of sweet potato casserole that you threw together in minutes.

I purchased Dandies a few weeks ago when they were on sale at Whole Foods. I thought they tasted very dense and awkward on their own, but when cooked, they taste exactly the same as regular marshmallows!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I turned my kitchen into a boutique vegan bakery!

I had a lot of fun yesterday afternoon catching up with Natalie and Sasha. I love baking, as does Sasha, so we always planned on getting together and making up vegan treats! Her brother is dairy-free so she is fairly experienced in dairy substitutes but was looking for suggestions. Natalie is pseudo-vegan and is virtually a garbage disposal when it comes to food so she had to come along. Her birthday is also this Friday!

I have had my eye on Chloe Coscarelli's winning recipe on Cupcake Wars since she published it months ago. I've had it bookmarked since JUNE but never had an occasion to tackle a difficult, multi-step dessert recipe. A Raspberry Tiramisu Cupcake just sounds decadent. It consists of a fairly ordinary vanilla cupcake, filled with a robust coffee flavored syrup and then a raspberry sauce. It is then topped off with an espresso buttercream that will not last by any means. It was INSANELY good. Very rich, not something I would indulge in on a regular basis, but for an occasion? Sure.

We also made Lemon Bars from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's The Joy of Vegan Baking. They were very good as well. The lemon curd base is from silken tofu, but this is a baked item that you cannot detect the tofu taste at all. The pastry crust is soft and tasty, but the lemon topping is fresh and tart.

Sasha made a creative slideshow that I can't seem to copy/paste here. I'm a bit technically challenged. At any rate, you'll see some top rate food p0rn if you head over to her tumblr. She was my food photographer for the day! :]

Monday, March 7, 2011

AFR: Curry Laksa

I made this recipe last week but wanted to post about it after I had actually finished its leftovers and that didn't happen until lunch today.


Doesn't that bowl look so flavorful? The combination of textures and spices works harmoniously. Red curry paste works wonders, as I said after making the Red Thai Tofu, and it gives a rich color plus depth to the dish. Aromatic ginger, onion, and garlic lend great flavor and scent. My favorite part had to be the bok choy, though. I don't believe I have ever had bok choy. Now, it was probably in some form in a stir fry or other asian dish I have ordered before, but I have never purchased it and combined it in a dish, although I've seen it used in many cooking shows. It was magnificent. The diced bok choy absorb all the flavor and tasted so good when cooked (as Isa advises) and are braised to perfection. I LOVED the flavor and could not get enough bok choy. The leaves are gently wilted by the broth and provide nice texture.

The tofu was so-so. The method in which they were prepared did not lend much to the dish. I enjoy tofu best when it takes on other flavors, not when it tastes like tofu. The noodles were medicore. I've never cooked with rice noodles before, and I'm not quite sure if I either undercooked or overcooked them, but this dish would have been just as good (if not better) over some brown rice. Overall, a great dish with some drawbacks. Leftover, the noodles were extremely soggy and did not reheat well. Oddly enough, even after 2 days in the refrigerator, the tofu neglected to absorb additional flavor. Stubborn tofu! ASSHOLE.

Friday, March 4, 2011

AFR: Caesar Salad, Eggplant Bacon, Caesar Chavez Dressing

In the words of one of my co-workers, OH. MY. LANTA.
This recipe is AMAZING. This is legitimately one of the most delicious salads I've ever prepared. And it came together in under half an hour!


I don't think this picture does it justice, but you can see that the dressing coats the lettuce like a real caesar would. I thought the flavor of the dressing was spot-on caesar, but it lacked a creamy texture that I am accustomed to. That being said, for a recipe that includes no vegenaise or anything of that sort, it is impressive. Natural ingredients like cashews, tahini, and miso really do work magic in terms of a creamy consistency.

The eggplant bacon is insanely good. You will eat all of it. I promise. My only complaint? There's very little protein to make this a "meal". Something tells me I'll live.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

APPEARANCE OVERHAUL! :)

Today I overhauled the appearance of my blog. I played around with a lot of new features and complemented the new color scheme I selected last week.

Maybe next week I'll start actually posting pictures! :O

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

AFR: Pad Thai Salad w/ Red Tofu & Peanut Dressing.

The Vegan Cookbook Club has moved on to Book #2!
 
First dish for me: Pad Thai Salad. The flavors of a great pad thai dish over fresh crisp greens sounded quite delicious to me.

The Pad Thai Salad (33) had great flavors. With crisp veggies, nice acidity, and crunchy peanuts, it was a great combination for a salad. I need to write an "about me" so I can let you know how I probably eat fewer salads than any other vegan/vegetarian/veggie-loving fiend. I just don't enjoy raw veggies very much. Nevertheless, the actual salad ingredients themselves made for a "winning" combination (in the words of Charlie Sheen, lol...)

The Red Thai Tofu (149) was a suggested topper to the salad, so I went with it. I ate the meal for lunch but wanted something very filling (again, add this to my reason for disliking salads). The red curry paste is DYNAMITE. If you haven't used this yet, find it at your grocery store (or specialty/asian store) and USE IT IN SOMETHING. It really gives an earthy and savory while spicy thai element that is absolutely necessary. The other ingredients in this dish meld nicely. I will be making this again!

The Peanut Lime-Dragon Dressing (34) was a flop, for me at least. I liked the idea of a more textured dressing with the chopped peanuts, but it did not add to the flavor, which made this seem like a watery dressing with chunks of peanuts and some lime. I added more sriracha and still didn't like it very much. SO, I took it upon myself to better the recipe. I added in a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter as well as some rice vinegar and it tasted significantly better. I think a peanut sauce (or dressing) is dependent upon PB. Even this slight amount is not going to add a ridiculous amount of fat. The lime came through more pleasantly, the heat from the Sriracha complemented the creaminess of the PB nicely.

My recommendation (and what I'll do next time)? Make the dressing while the tofu is cooking through. Pour the dressing over the tofu while it is still in the pan, allowing the two sauces to meld together into one beautiful, nutty and spicy sauce. Serve over the salad, allowing it to beautifully wilt and the veggies to absorb some excellent flavor.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

the cookbook club veganomicon review

I'm aware this is a bit late, unfortunately I've been cramming for a massive bio exam since last week and did not have time to finish my review. Here it is!


I have participated in a cookbook club that chose Veganomicon for its first book. As an aside, I received this book a few months after going vegan for the holidays from a good friend. She actually came by last night and was pleased to see I was still making good use of it (the lower-fat banana bread into muffins, in fact) more than a year later.

THE GOOD:
I spoke about my initial feelings about the book upon beginning the club and making the seitanic jambalaya. I have referred to Vcon as "The Bible" as I believe it to be an essential, comprehensive guide to vegan cooking. All of the guides and information in the front of the book are extremely useful and the book itself, cover-to-cover, is filled with so many useful little tips. I enjoyed the larger font, the pages, and overall the layout makes sense to me. The book is easy to understand and uses simple language. For the techniques that may not be known for an amateur cook, they are described in the front.
With such a wide variety of recipes, this book is the definition of comprehensive (in fact, I have used the term three times in describing this book). It covers every subject and so many different cuisines (Mediterranean, Latin American, Asian, etc.) that there are plentiful crowd-pleasing recipes, many of which I would consider to be omnivore-friendly.

THE NOT SO GOOD:
The photo quantity is underwhelming. This book uses excellent adjectives to describe nearly every recipe -- I know why. The use of photography to showcase the food is minimal. The photos selected are good and accurate, but with less than 20 or so, the cookbook has 200-some recipes that missed picture day for the yearbook.
The majority of the recipes I have made from this cookbook are time-consuming, and moreso than the anticipated time suggested. Maybe that's just the type of book this is, but it is somewhat of an undertaking to make many of the recipes because they simply call for so many ingredients. I don't think this is necessarily bad, sometimes a lot of hard work can produce a very satisfying dish, but overall I thought that the majority of recipes were fairly complex. The instructions were clear, but they were multi-step with many ingredients. I know other reviewers may not feel this way, so perhaps it was the recipes I made.
Another complaint is that many of the recipes required using multiple devices/bowls/mechanisms (i.e. pots, pans, cutting boards, bowls, blenders, etc.) that my kitchen was frequently a tornado after making a Vcon recipe (let alone an entire suggested meal).

THE RECIPES:
Diner Home Fries (71) was my go-to recipe for home fries (until I started making HH's, which are baked, not quite as good but much healthier and a little zestier). These are crispy and well seasoned morsels of deliciousness.
Tofu Florentine (72) another arduous multi-step recipe, although I have made this three times, so it must be great! Lots of good flavors and very filling, although the end product is fairly oily.
Chocolate Chip Brownie Waffles (75) I had to make these because of the title. They were rich and delicious!
Blueberry Corn Pancakes (76) I personally didn't love the cornmeal flavor. I found it grainy and too savory, even after drowning them in syrup and complemented by the berries.
Pear/Endive Salad with Candied Pecans (86) Crisp, delicious, sweet, and savory. It was a perfect salad, although missing protein to be a true meal, it was a great lunch.
Herb-Scalloped Potatoes (109) a side that I keep going back to. Creamy, delicious, and filling. I don't drizzle the olive oil when baking (it doesn't need it) and it remains a very guilt-free side.
Chickpea Quinoa Pilaf (115) The first recipe I made from Vcon AND my first time eating quinoa! Delicious. Great combination of flavors and very easy.
Chickpea Cutlets (133) A classic staple in the community. Fairly easy and very customizable based on what's in your pantry and what you feel like making these into.
Seitanic Jambalaya (170) this was the recipe that did me wrong. Read about it in my earlier post.
Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Bisucits (172) a very hearty dish, but not worth the nearly two hours that went into it.
Pumpkin Baked Ziti with Caramelized Onions and Sage Breadcrumbs (194) OH MY VCON. This recipe is worth every minute and every dirty dish. So many flavors come together so beautifully. This dish is hearty, creamy, and delicious on so many levels.
Mustard Sauce (204) I just made this to serve over some simple gimmelean sausage patties and braised kale and it was great. It rounded out the dish with complex flavors that came together quickly.
Lower-Fat Banana Bread (228) A very solid recipe. The only complaint is that 1/4 c. is hardly "lower-fat", but otherwise they taste good.
Apple-Peanut Butter-Caramel Bars (242) WOW! Dynamite dessert. This fooled omni's completely. It was quite a bit of work though.
Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownies (243) Excellent recipe. So great! I have made it with raspberries/jam and it was just as good.

THE OVERALL REVIEW:
I recommend this book with some reservations. I really think it has a LOT of information that would be helpful to a novice cook and a new vegan. At the same time, I think someone with minimal cooking experience may be intimidated by the daunting steps and ingredients that so many of the recipes require. As a foodie with great cooking experience, I embraced going vegan as a fun challenge and was looking for ways to cook in a new way. For someone fairly new to cooking, this may scare them slightly. So maybe it will sit on the shelf for a few months and gather dust until a newbie finds their bearings and wants to throw together an elaborate dinner party! My lasting message is that there are several other cookbooks I would use everyday to make simpler recipes that are nowhere near as labor intensive, but that this cookbook belongs in your kitchen.

NOTES:
I promise for the next review I will be more diligent about my postings, photography, and diversity in selection of recipes! You can tell that I favored breakfast and neglected soups and casseroles, although I bookmarked several soups and two casseroles!

Friday, February 18, 2011

a guide to going vegan

When Oprah's episode about veganism aired a few weeks ago (unless you've been living under a rock, the vegan community has been commenting about it for some time!) I received a message from my cousin Melissa, a 20-something living in suburban Orlando with her boyfriend. Melissa has always been fairly active and healthy but wanted to complete a vegan challenge for a week. She also enlisted my aunt to join her in their "vegan week" which is now scheduled for early March when they are traveling less. She asked me for some meal ideas, but of course, being the thorough person and experienced vegan that I am, this is the message that I sent her. Obviously this is entirely my opinions and expressed beliefs, not medical advice or facts.

This is a bit long, but overall I wanted to give you a lot of recommendations so you and William will (hopefully) have a good experience with veganism! I've been doing this diet for 1.5 years and have tried many different recipes and used ingredients I never would have as an omnivore -- it really is an entirely different way of living and eating.

Soy-based products:
Generally, I avoid purchasing soy-based products frequently, but do so on occasion as they are not the best option. Soybeans are heavily processed in order to become soymilk or soy protein isolate, which ruins a lot of the health benefits. Soybeans are often genetically-modified and not something I would want to eat. I really enjoy knowing about what goes into my body rather than having to guess or ignore funny preservatives or foreign chemicals. Many of these include several processed "fake-meats" (containing that funky soy protein isolate that I try to avoid) and soymilk (I much prefer the taste of almond milk or coconut milk, both of which are more natural and a perfect replacement for dairy-based milk).
That being said, tofu and tempeh are all really exempt from these. When tofu is organic, it is not genetically-modified, and in moderation is completely fine (and tasty when prepared well!). Tempeh is a fermented soybean product, completely healthy and adapts well to baking.
A major complaint by many in the vegan community against the Oprah episode was that on Kathy Freston's trip to Whole Foods, she emphasized many meat alternatives. In transitioning or flirting with a vegan diet, I think these are a suitable alternative, but these aren't really ideal for any diet. So much of being vegan is about knowing what you are eating, and so many great bloggers I follow have helped me create delicious meals that are focused around delicious, pure, and healthy fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and legumes, so why would I waste that potential on over-processed, frozen products? I do use Gardein products probably once or twice per month when I'm short on time (the scallopini is incredibly similar to chicken) and those are fairly natural in ingredients. These are often found at WF or even your regular grocery store.
You can dabble in vegan imitations for cream cheese, sour cream, even regular cheese (Daiya is the new brand of choice for many, although I personally don't enjoy it completely, only finding it especially tasty when melted down into a sauce). Earth balance is a great substitute for butter. All of these are available at WF and some are available at regular stores. I shop at WF more often only because I don't like my regular grocery stores, and I have a WF less than 10 minutes from my house. Trader Joe's is another great option, not sure if you guys have that.

Literature:
Obviously there is a whole lot of information in films or books that emphasize the negative health effects of meat products, dairy, and eggs, which are very important to me, and then even more that cover the lack of humanity and respect for animals, important as well. You don't need to go out and purchase cookbooks or anything like that right away. If you think that the diet really agrees with you guys and fits into your lifestyle and is something you'd like to integrate more often, I can definitely recommend some great cookbooks (I think I own about 10 or 12, haha). Here are some blogs that offer some great recipes and tips:
Oh She Glows: I swear by everything she makes. Angela embraces wholesome ingredients over the processed in favor of great recipes. She definitely makes sure that balance and protein are emphasized and her food photography is stunning!
Mama Pea: Sarah throws together some brilliantly creative recipes that are never labor intensive. She always uses very accessible ingredients, and because she cooks for her family of four, they are always kid-friendly. She recently put together a complete meal plan that is completely structured, you may want to glance at that as well!
Happy Herbivore: All of Lindsay's recipes are whole-wheat and fat-free (well, no fat added cooking) and she just came out with a cookbook last month that has many more recipes!

Breakfast:
I am not a big daily breakfast person by any means. Normally I get up and go straight to classes 2-3 days per week, so I am not really in the mood to do anything that requires preparation. I usually eat a soy-milk based yogurt (o'soy and whole soy & company make great flavors) and an apple/banana on my way in, or when I get to work. I would suggest adapting whatever you eat now to a vegan alternative: mix non-dairy milk in your cereal or oatmeal, schmear vegan cream cheese or earth balance on your toast (or opt for a natural fruit spread) or something of the like.
I enjoy a green monster smoothie of some kind almost every day, usually after the gym or on my way to work. I find it really refreshing and an amazing way to get your vegetables in the morning. I would suggest starting with spinach because it's flavor is so mild and transitioning to kale eventually as it is more nutrient-packed. I like about a tablespoon of flax seed, some peanut butter, 2-3 handfulls of spinach, an apple, and a frozen banana, plus some sweetener (I use stevia or agave, natural!) to taste.
When I'm not working, I like to make a hearty brunch, something really satisfying. Tofu scrambles are a staple in the vegan community. This fruit & nut quinoa is similar to oatmeal and is great. This french toast is ridiculously easy. And I've made this fast sausage/cheese sandwich several times already.

Lunch/Dinner:
I combined these as 9/10x, my lunch is just leftovers from dinner. When I'm at work, I usually eat a microwaveable Amy's product (the enchiladas are awesome, as are the burritos and the mac and cheese, although the green labeled one is the gluten/dairy free!) when I don't have leftovers. Otherwise, I make a large serving of whatever I cook for dinner and it's lunch throughout the week. This Zucchini Quinoa Lasagna is a recipe I keep going back to, I've made it at least five times. I've made this Red-Hot Chili Tofu many times, it is probably my favorite tofu dish, super spicy and great over brown rice with double the sauce. My go to burger recipe has been the Spicoli Burgers from eat, drink, & be vegan -- they are simply the best. A hearty entree, even for someone that never liked mushrooms, are the really delicious Portobello Steaks. I am not big on salads. I probably eat fewer salads then many other vegetarians/vegans, haha. I just find so many other foods much more satisfying. If you're looking for a salad, this Kale Salad with Peanut Dressing gets better over time as the kale holds up to a dressing, and you can throw in whatever you have (celery, red onion, cucumbers, bell peppers, what have you). This Butternut Squash and Garbanzo Bean Salad was also really great as well.

Snacks/Dessert:I put these categories together because for me, my desserts are usually healthy enough to snack on, and my snacks are typically salty/sweet. I definitely snack on things like Cliff bars and nuts regularly (I buy a combo pack of almonds/cashews/peanuts from costco) both of which are great sources of protein. I also snack on hummus, veggies, and crackers. Reid enjoys these kale chips, and when perfectly dry and crispy, they are really good. These super fudge low-fat brownies are a little time consuming but well worth the effort - extremely rich and fudgy brownies full of flavor without the fat. And the brown sugar bars are my new addiction.

Hopefully you enjoyed my compilation of information! :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

a fantastic pasta a la vegan.

One of the most satisfying bowls of pasta you'll ever eat. I promise.

Boil water for pasta and select pasta from your cabinet. I saw linguine first, so all bets were off. Also set another heavy saucepan with a slight amount of EVOO, probably a tablespoon, over medium heat.

In a food processor, mix 2 vegan sausages (I used a Tofurkey brand of Italian sausages) with half of an onion, sliced. Pulse until crumbly and onion pieces are small, around 30 seconds.

Chop up a garlic clove, or two or three, and add. I'm into garlic, so I added three. Drop in the EVOO saucepan, sweat for 30 seconds until it begins to turn light brown, and then dump in your sausage/onion mixture.

Stir the pot often for 5 minutes over medium-high heat such that it may brown slightly throughout. The sausage is already cooked, but flavor will ensue beautifully.

Add in about 1 1/2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce, about a 2 teaspoons of italian seasoning, and a good tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes, along with some salt and pepper. Drop the pasta, your water is probably boiling. Bring the sauce to a boil, then put a lid on the saucepan and allow the flavors to develop even more while the pasta cooks for a few minutes.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it off and add it to the pasta sauce. Turn the heat off and allow the noodles to absorb some of the sauce for about a minute. Serve warm, with nutritional yeast if desired.

Delicious.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

sometimes it's time for takeout.

Sometimes I have a really long shift, or a string of longer days working. Today wasn't really one of those days. I just knew that I didn't feel like cooking. I have plenty of quick go-to recipes for these cases, but they involve a little time, including waiting and prepping, and of course dishes. I just wasn't having any of that. I didn't eat much at work (I brought leftover jambalaya that wasn't working out very well) a cliff builders bar, 2 clementines, and a yogurt, and from 10-630, that's just not a great amount of food.

I absolutely love thai food. I have had very few bad experiences. It is flavorful, clean, and always bold. Service is generally very good, and takeout is fast. I love that the menu always has vegan options that are varied. That being said, drunken noodles are my favorite. I love the feeling of eating something so spicy that it knocks your socks off.

 

How does that not look delicious?! :)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

cooking up a storm! [cookbook club #2 & #3]

We've recently experienced "thundersnow" here in the DC area and I have been enjoying my break at home since Wednesday afternoon. Classes were canceled Thursday, and although I worked Friday and Thursday night, I definitely earned this great break.

I also had a phenomenal massage and facial Wednesday afternoon! I received a gift certificate from my parents for a massage and added on the facial. I had my services done at a wellness studio and my therapist had all sorts of certifications in relation to nutrition as well. She explained to me how your face is a mirror of what happens on the inside and commented on how my vegan diet might be a result of my skin tightening and increase in acne. Of course, she made it clear she was only one opinion, but she gave me some great advice and new information. She let me know that it also indicated I may be short on a few trace minerals and suggested altering my diet and noticing new changes in my face.

Last week I received The Happy Herbivore Cookbook and it the.bomb.dot.com. This is vegan cooking simplified. The recipes are easy, require few steps, are completed in minimal time, and utilize inexpensive ingredients that you often have on hand for great flavors. I highly recommend it! I have made at least 5 recipes already and stand behind this cookbook 100%.

That being said, I took advantage of this break to begin cooking up a storm! I made many HH recipes, but I'll feature the ones I made from Veganomicon for the recipe review.

Turn to page 194 (if you haven't already). "Pumpkin Baked Ziti with Caramelized Onions and Sage Crumb Topping". Were more beautiful words ever assembled together? I love baked ziti. As an omni, I made Rachael Ray's recipe many times. She combined ziti noodles with a savory tomato sauce and a creamy bechamel sauce in layers and topped it with cheeses to broil, and it was quite amazing. I'm not a big fan of fake cheeses, so I have yet to veganize the recipe, although I know a great cashew cream could stand in for the bechamel. Speaking of which, the Cashew Ricotta is the cream of choice for Vcon's recipe.

I'll continue to say that this recipe was slightly difficult. It was fairly time consuming, involves several steps, but was completely worth all of the effort. I considered not making the homemade breadcrumbs, but the footnote describing how extraordinary they are assured me they were worth the effort -- and they are. They add the perfect crunch and texture to a creamy pasta dish. I think the sage, white pepper, and cayenne work beautifully together. I would have added a little more cayenne than I had originally to strengthen the flavors next time, although the recipe says "to taste". I served it aside a simple salad and had difficulty resisting a third serving. It wasn't the best recipe when re-heated as leftovers, but it was still worth it. This is an absolute MUST have.

Yesterday I made the mashed potatoes. I omitted the earth balance in exchange for a little more unsweetened almond milk and had great results. I've been trying to reduce the amount of EB in my diet, and didn't miss it one bit. They were creamy and the perfect comfort food I craved...probably because I topped them with the Jalapeno-Corn Gravy! The gravy had the perfect kick. It was easy and came together in about 15 minutes. Simply preparing the ingredients, blending them together, and pouring them over mashed potatoes was simple. I had it with a side of steamed beans and greens to balance things out a little bit, although that was barely necessary seeing as there wasn't any significant fat or calories in the gravy. How perfect! :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

seitan for a chance! [cooking club entry #1]

This meal should have taken a little less, according to the cooking directions. Probably closer to 2 1/2 hours. I'm not a slow cook by any means. If something isn't coming around, I turn up the heat and watch it closely to make sure it doesn't burn. I prep ingredients in advance. I pour and measure in advance. That being said, this is the first of many entries for the cooking club I joined!


If you're vegan, you've heard of this book. I've referred to it as "the bible". It definitely redefines the term "ultimate" as it is truly comprehensive in terms of cooking and preparing so many essential vegan items, as well as assembling them into a plethora of intriguing recipes separated into many different sections.

All of that being said, I didn't even suggest "Vcon" as one of my preferences for the cookbook club. I've made about 10 recipes form this cookbook in the 1 year + 1 month I have owned this book (I received it last year for Christmakkuh from a friend that had no idea it was so well renowned by the vegan community). I have enjoyed many of them. But this book is a staple in the community. There are so many books I have heard of (or even OWN) that I have made so few recipes from and really need an extra push to delve into them. OH WELL! Here's hoping I get pushed into some of the other books I have (or have even been considering purchasing -- DANGEROUS GROUND for me as I am someone that has a problem with buying cookbooks!)

Yes, a picture will come up here eventually. I have a camera, but I have yet to watch the tutorial on how to upload pictures onto my desktop (something I seldom use as it is).  More to come on that later.

This week I decided to give seitan a chance. I just googled an image to put above this paragraph and was disgusted. I've never liked this form of fake meat. I thoroughly enjoy tofu. I appreciate many frozen prepared meals made with TVP or soy isolate protein (read: 'chickn' nuggets/patties, etc.) and use them when I am short on time, although with so many odd ingredients I definitely don't make it a hobby.  At any rate, I wanted to embrace the challenge of joining a cookbook club by adding onto it with another challenge: getting over seitan. It has been enjoyed by so many in the vegan community that I feel like I could give it a chance. Whenever I have seen it in a recipe or menu item, I do without it (namely pho at vietnamese restaurants). I don't enjoy the taste, I think it's really bland. I don't want the texture, I know the chewiness is just so fake and I find it off-putting.

But I knew I should at least TRY and get over it. So I delved into Vcon to find some recipes that might explore this foreign food (I remembered it being rich with seitan-y recipes) and made "Seitanic Jambalaya" tonight. I enjoyed jambalaya as an omnivore -- it has so many deep flavors with the vegetables, tomato base, and the meat and seafood flavors. I was intrigued how it would translate as a vegan dish. I even made it a few months ago, well "Jumble-aya" from Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan, a much more simplified version, and it was delicious and simple. I am going to start out by saying that this recipe was a lot more complicated than that one, but the flavor was definitely deeper. Red wine bolstered the flavors. The crispy bits of browned seitan really add flavor. But I still don't like seitan. I mushed it into the rest of the jambalaya and chewed my way through the bowl. I didn't even finish it, and I almost always finish my food. I might have to slice the seitan into very thin strips and brown it on all sides next time I prepare it.

Still, this dish took almost 3 hours. Making the seitan was a process unto itself. You could buy it pre-packaged, but that looks so disgusting. It is time consuming. While it boiled away, I prepped all my veg. It was somewhat therapeutic. I watched several episodes of Season 3 of ER today! At any rate, it all came together, except the rice never cooking. I used brown basmati rice, a choice selection in my household, and knew it would take the recommended 40-45 minutes for brown rice, but it definitely took an hour, and not every bite of rice is completely cooked. Kind of unsettling, but I'll get over it. Overall, some nice complex flavors that developed well, but the seitan was disappointing for me, and sort-of let the whole dish down with it. A bummer for me :(

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

and in the morning, i'm making waffles!

i went to bed last night thinking i would make it into the gym this morning. that didn't happen. i might make it in tonight, but maybe that's just wishful thinking. i was craving waffles like no other this morning! i threw together isa's old-fashioned chelsea waffles from vegan brunch and added CHOCOLATE CHIPS. isn't everything better with chocolate chips?

today was my day off, so i did plenty of laundry and got a lot of relaxation time in. caught up on my DVR, cleaned up the kitchen, overall not a bad day! :)