Monday, December 29, 2008

My First Hanukkah Attempt

Since my last few posts were pretty Christmas-centric, I decided it was my duty to give a shout out to the Hanukkah celebrating folks! I have never tried my hand at any specifically "Hanukkah" or "Jewish" food, but I suppose you don't have to be Jewish to share in the celebration, particularly when it comes to the good food! I don't think I did too bad for my first shot...except that the latkes kept sticking to the pan! I made the Classic Potato Latkes from the blog, topped with a little Tofutti Sour Supreme, and I served them with my Homemade Brats (using the famous steaming method!) with Organic Sauerkraut and a side of Braised Cabbage and Apples. Now I only wish I had made those fluffy little Hanukkah donuts for dessert!
I was really pleased with the flavors and textures of this whole meal, but I was quite disappointed when I plated everything up and realized it was all kinda tan. There's veggies on this plate, I promise! :) Mono-toned or not, this was a really tasty meal that I would definitely try again! Happy Hanukkah!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Home For the Holidays, Part 3!

For my last Christmas post, I gotta tell you about all the cooking gifts I got!!
Here are most of the goods: really good knives, pastry set, wave-cutting knife, kitchen timer, prep bowls, mixing bowls, mortar and pestle, cookbook from local veg-restaurant Eden Alley, GIANT green cutting board, and (not pictured) ceramic Corningware baking set. How wonderful is my family?! Also, my wonderful mom got me a Rosemary Tree! I am pumped to make some delish rosemary dishes now!
Right after I got this tree on Christmas Eve, I made Rosemary Mashed Potatoes for us, and served it with BBQ Seitan and Garlic-Roasted Brussel gooooood!

Another example of how awesome family can be: Steven's mom made us lots of vegan food for his family Christmas celebration! She used lots of her non-veg recipes and veganized them just for us! How precious!
Here's a tray of goodies: vegan fruitcake (my first time ever trying fruitcake! it was really good!) and vegan gingerbread cookies...
Close-up shot of the wonderful, chewy, soft cookies...
She even made TWO vegan apple pies for us! Whoa! Here they are, ready to cut and devour... And here's a big slice, full of appl-y goodness...
All in all, this Christmas vacation rocked! Tomorrow, it's back to work and real-life...but I am so glad I got to spend some quality time with my family! Oh, and make and eat lots of really tasty, homemade food!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Home For the Holidays, Part 2!

This post could also be titled "Too Much Food" because that was definitely what I experienced yesterday for Christmas!! I am not complaining though...they say that's what the holidays are for, right?! I really had one of the best Christmases ever, and it was because of the awesome time with family AND the great food!! I really like holiday cooking and baking, and here's the evidence!!
For Christmas morning breakfast, I made RRE's Cinnamon Rolls from the Bjorked Off blog! I made them with whole wheat flour, so they are a little tanner than your average cinnamon roll...but much healthier! Here they are, ready to be baked:
And here is a BIG one, all nice and cinnamon-glazed!!! Worth the effort for sure! Is there honestly anything tastier than the warm center of a cinnamon roll and a big mug of hot coffee on Christmas morning?? Don't think so. For lunch, my family decided to go with a Mexican-themed meal. I decided this would be the perfect opportunity for me to try out Celine's Seitan Chorizo from the Have Cake, Will Travel blog! This was spectacularly savory, spicy, and flavorful! We made soft shell (whole wheat!) tacos, which we topped with shredded cabbage, onion, my grandma's guacamole, lettuce, tomato, and Tofutti Sour Supreme! YUUUUM! On the side, I made a big batch of refried black first time from scratch! They are spiced with lime, garlic, and cumin, and are very addictive!In keeping with the Mexican theme, I made the Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World! Perfect combination of chocolate, cinnamon, and cayenne in a moist and tasty cake! I made a cocoa-cinnamon buttercream to top it off, too...
Then, because one dessert simply isn't enough for a holiday, I made the Mexican Wedding Cookies from the Joy of Vegan Baking. These are so good! They are like little balls of pecan shortbread with powdered sugar, and they just melt in your mouth! I think these were my mom's favorite!Okay, I know another dessert may sound crazy...but I had to make another vegan dessert to take to my dad's house for another Christmas celebration! These are coconut haystack bars, which are something that we sell at Main Squeeze, where I chef, so I borrowed the recipe from there to make at home. It is a shortbread crust with a coconut-pecan-chocolate chip filling...made sticky with barley malt syrup...and drizzled with melted dark chocolate post-baking! These are so perfect! A little bit of everything you would want in a dessert, without being overly sweet!To wash all of this feast down, I recommend some Chocolate Peppermint Stick soymilk from Westsoy!! A nice alternative to the usual Soy Nog enjoyed by vegans at the holidays (which I also love), plus who can beat chocolate and mint together in a creamy, cool drink?? Not me, that's for sure!
I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!!
Does anyone have any good Hanukkah recipes they recommend, now that my Christmas cooking and baking is done? I can't turn down a good theme meal! :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Home For the Holidays, Part 1

It can be pretty tough going home for holidays to a non-vegan household. Not only do you have the anxiety of "what will I eat" but you also often have to to deal with the odd looks, comments, questions, etc. from inquisitive (yet loving) relatives. And you thought it was bad answering questions about whom you are dating!! But it doesn't have to be as difficult as it may least for the food problem! There's a few simple things you can look for in your family's pantry that they already have, which you can throw together and eat!!

For example, we had a family Christmas this weekend, and I was able to make this Holiday Quinoa Salad without getting anything special from the store! Holiday flavors and good nutrition are a combination that's hard to beat! While your parents may not be stocked with quinoa, you could easily substitute rice or any grain for the same tasty creation!This is simply quinoa my mom had, and I added a holiday-spiced teabag to the boiling water to cook with the quinoa. This really added a nice, mild flavor to the quinoa!! When the quinoa cooled, I tossed it with canned mandarin oranges, parsley, toasted almonds, spinach, red onion, and dried cranberries. I made a simple dressing to put on it of dijon mustard, olive oil, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and some spices, including chili powder and cinnamon! It was really good and easy, too! I just dug through the cupboards and put random things together that seemed like they would taste good!

There are some easy rules/things to look for when at a family member's house who is non-veg, and you want to whip up some grub to please your tastebuds and possibly even impress your family!
1. Canned fruits and veggies....maybe not your ideal choice at home, but work really well when away! Canned tomatoes are seriously soooo versatile!! Fresh produce is obviously even better, if you can find them, but don't hold your breath :)
2. Dried or canned beans...a staple in kitchens, even of the non-veg variety! Rice and beans, anyone?
3. Dried fruit...essential for snacking, salads, etc. Always at your family member's house who is "trying to eat healthier." When are they just going to go vegan already???!! ha.
4. Nuts or seeds...protein is key for keeping up energy during the stress of the family holiday gatherings! Look for them in peanut butter, too!! Best eaten by the spoonful, of course!
5. Oatmeal....the perfect breakfast in a non-veg house: no cereal labels to stress over, no soy/rice/hemp milk required, easy and quick to make, warm and delish!! Try drizzling with some maple syrup and cinnamon, which pretty much everyone has! mmmm....

See, you too can not starve or stress when you are away from home, in a country bumpkin town, with a bunch of carnivores! hooray!

Here's the whole dinner my veg mom and I made (yes, I am really lucky my mom is veg and goes out of her way to buy me vegan stuff and wants me to cook for her when I come home! she is awesome!!!) The Holiday Quinoa salad from above, Tofurkey roast with stuffing, and Steamed Green Beans with Caramelized Onions. So good!!! God bless Tofurkey, seriously.
I even made a pie for dessert! Pecan Pie (Bryanna's recipe from the Vegan Feast Kitchen). Pecan Pie is the best pie fyi. Best when topped with some Soyatoo whipped topping and a big mug of hot coffee. This is Christmas in a crust.Before I left, my mom requested her favorite breakfast: scrambled tofu! She even went out and bought all the veggies for it! Bonus! This is probably the best scram-fu I've ever made!! It is onion, garlic, red and green bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach, yellow and zucchini squashes, seasoned with Bragg's, hot sauce, turmeric, and salt 'n pepper. Served with whole wheat toast...and black coffee, of course!! I'm glad she requested this, because it was amazing!
For my first night back to my real house in Columbia, I wasn't much in the mood for cooking after having to try and be creative for a few days, so I made an old favorite: Soba Noodles with Veggies, Baked Tofu, and Homemade Peanut Sauce! This dish NEVER fails! perf.
More holiday posts to come!! oh joy! Also, Happy Hanukkah to those celebrating!! :)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Hill of Beans

My love of beans has grown immensely lately. Is it because dried beans are dirt cheap (even organic ones!)? Or is it because they are really tasty and nutritious? Or is it because they are so very versatile? Well, I would have to say it's all of those reasons! So here's some bean-based meals I've made over the past week!!Northeast Nourishment: Boston Baked Beans, New England Brown Bread (both from VegNews), and Fresh Green Beans with CranberriesSouthern Comfort: Creole Black-Eyed Peas with Sweet Potatoes, Jalapeno Corn Bread, and Garlicky GreensIsland Delights: Caribbean Black Beans, Coconut-Mashed Yams, and Garlic Ginger Roasted Broccoli
While beans are my new favorite ingredient, I can't leave behind my other wonderful plant-based proteins!! I have been cooking a bunch this past week or so, and here's more evidence!Hot Sauce-Glazed Tempeh from Veganomicon, Jalapeno Cornbread, and Sauteed GreensVeggie Tofu Scramble with Roasted Potatoes and Wheat Toast from Cafe Berlin...I love Sunday breakfast!!Buffalo Seitan Wrap!!! I have created a new recipe!! I have been wanting to make Buffalo Wing-style seitan for a while, and I finally did! This wrap has vegan ranch, avocado, lettuce, red onion, and tomato along with the breaded and sauced seitan. Sinful.
Laura's Buffalo Sauce
2 cups cayenne hot sauce....Frank's is the best!!
1 Tbs soy creamer
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
4 cloves garlic
1 lemon, peeled
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and blend until completely smooth. Toss with seitan and serve hot with vegan ranch dressing! mmmmmm......salty and spicy goodness!!
And, because dessert is NEVER to be forgotten:
Sparkled Ginger Cookies from Vegan With a Vengeance
These cookies will make you smile, and everyone else, too! Especially if you toss in some crystallized ginger like I did :)

Go buy yourself some beans, folks!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Seitan Piccata. omg.

I have discovered a new love: Seitan Piccata!!! Ever since visiting Candle 79 when I was in New York this past spring, and falling in love with this dish, I have wanted to make it!! I am so glad I finally put it in my meal schedule for this week! The sauce on the seitan is just so tangy and salty and lemony and capery and fantastic. PLUS I used my homemade seitan, and this is the best batch I have ever made. Double yum bonus! I seriously could not believe how flippin easy this savory meal was to put together. It only took 30 minutes! I recommend serving the piccata with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed greens, like I did...
Seitan Piccata with White Wine and Caper Sauce (serves 4)
4 seitan cutlets
1/4 cup whole wheat flour for dredging
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup diced shallots
1/2 cup diced onions
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup capers, drained
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup vegetable broth
2 Tbs flour
4 Tbs vegan margarine
1 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Dredge the seitan cutlets in the whole wheat flour, shaking off any excess. In a saute pan, heat 2 Tbs olive oil over high heat and brown the cutlets until crisp and golden, about 30 seconds per side. Place the cutlets on a plate while you prepare the sauce.
Heat the remaining olive oil in the same pan over medium heat. Add the shallots, onion, garlic, and capers, and saute. Stir and cook until softened, about 1 to2 minutes. Add the wine and cook until reduced by halt. Whisk in the lemon juice, and allow to reduce a little more. Add the veggie broth and the flour, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce four about a minute. Whisk in the margarine, parsley, slat, and pepper;, Pour over the seitan and serve immediately.
(From the Candle Cafe Cookbook)
D. Lish!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Noodles and a Taste Test

I have been really in the mood for cooking lately, which makes me really happy! Also, I have been doing this thing where I plan the meals for the next week and make a grocery list to match, which has been saving me a TON of money, time, and stress for cooking...and that makes cooking all the more fun!! Here's a few dinners from the past week...I have been craving noodles, so we've had them several times! mmmmm. nooooooooodles.punk-in pasta...with my home-roasted pumpkin, from La Dolce Vegan (with greens added!) and a side of baked apples! the pasta is whole wheat and made LOCALLY! bonus!
mugwort soba noodles with baked tofu, veggies, and a homemade peanut sauce
freaking amaaaazing tempeh reubens!!! ok, it's not noodles, but sauerkraut is noodl-y looking i guess :)

Okay, now on to the chocolate taste test! Our local natural foods market, Clover's, starting carrying this limited edition Chocolove chocolate that is single-origin, fair-trade, and from a 2007 vintage cacao bean crop! I adore chocolate in all ways, so when Steven and I saw that there were four different varieties, he had the genius idea of doing a taste test! We are now well on our way to becoming chocolate connoisseurs!! The four varieties were: 76% cocoa from Tanzania; 72% cocoa from Ecuador; 70% cocoa from the Dominican Republic; and 60% cocoa from Grenada. They were all some of the best chocolates I have ever tasted...perfectly creamy with a good bite, and a wonderful balance of sweetness and bitterness. We did a side-by-side comparison of the four and here were our results (we cleansed our palates in between, of course!)
(Steve took this picture! how cute :) )
Steven's Picks:
1. Grenada 60%
2. Tanzania 76%
3. Dominican Republic 70%
4. Ecuador 72%
My Picks:
1. Tanzania 76%
2. Grenada 60%
3. Ecuador 72%
4. Dominican Republic 70%
You should give these wonderful chocolates a try...even if you don't do a taste test! Or try doing a taste test with a different favorite is a ton of fun!!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fun With Seitan!

As a money- and package-saving measure, I have been making my own seitan! Seitan is probably my favorite protein choice, even if it does make me gassy! (TMI? nah.) It is really satisfying to see something compleltely homemade on your plate, not to mention how tasty and cheap it is to do it DIY!! I used the recipe in Veganomicon for the first time the other day...and I really liked it! I usually make the recipe in Sarah Kramer's La Dolce Vegan, but I have to admit I like Isa and Terry's version a little bit better. Here's a few things I did with my seitan this week: Vietnamese Bahn Mi Sandwich (from Veganomicon) with Sesame Cabbage Slaw
This sandwich is SERIOUSLY awesome! The sweet and spicy au jus is delicous, and I think this is really a perfect sandwich! I added shredded carrots and daikon radish for an extra veggie kick and a zing in freakin flavorful!!

Pumpkin Seed-Fennel Encrusted Seitan, Roasted Beets with Leeks and Celery, and Garlic-Mashed Potatoes
I just kind of made up these recipes with what I had in my house and what I was craving, and it turned out really well! This was a really good wintertime meal and was nice and savory for our tastebuds. Do you know how good roasted beets are?? They rock. Also, these are the pumpkin seeds from the local pumpkin I roasted a while back. Another DIY bonus!!
You should try making your own is wonderful and worth the extra effort!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hot Sauce Glazed Tempeh and Some Product Reviews!

I have been super busy and unable to consistently blog....but I have lots to talk about and a little time, so yay!
First up is the Hot Sauce Glazed Tempeh from Veganomicon! Good Lord this is so tasty! I love how savory and salty and spicy this is...I could not believe I hadn't made this before, especially with my affinity for hot sauce! I went home-style and served it with mashed potatoes (thanksgiving leftovers!) and garlic-sauteed greens...this was an awesome and comforting meal!!

I have also been trying lots of new products lately, from Clover's and Whole Foods...I love to go on food adventures :)
First is SOYRIZO! I freakin love this stufff! I have had a few other kinds of vegan chorizo before, and I loved it, so I had to give this a shot! It was a lot more flavorful and spicy than the other kinds I have had, but a little saltier, too. I served this up kind of mexican-style with veggies and such:Soyrizo!

Soyrizo with Local Peppers and Corn, Quinoa, and Avocado

Soyrizo with Tomatoes and Greens, Chili-Baked Polenta, and Pepitas
The next new item is Kozy Shack Soy Pudding! It was really nice to see a clearly vegan item it a common grocery store, in with all the other products!! And this is sooooooo tasty! It really reminds me of childhood...especially the yummy chocolate flavor!
Kozy Shack Chocolate Soy Pudding
....Topped with some Soyatoo Vegan Whipped Cream!

Then there's a holiday must: "Egg" Nog! I always buy the soy variety by Silk, but Clover's started carrying a Rice Dream soy nog, so I had to try it! I must say that the flavor is great and definitely tastes like the holidays. Yuuuummy spices and all that jazz! But, being rice milk, it is just not quite as thick as I would want a nog to be. And I like it thick! Steven says this is good on granola, though! mmmmm!! I would for sure recommend this if you aren't down with soy, though, cuz it is really tasty!
Rice Nog by Rice Dream! Glorious!