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.


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 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.

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?
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.

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?
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?

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.

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.

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?