Catch-up

Wow! I’ve really neglected Vegan Mofo this past week or so. Sorry about that folks! I’m sick, and school is busy, but doable. I’ve been cooking a lot too, but, unfortunately, I haven’t been taking pictures. So here’s a very wordy look at stuff I’ve been eating this past week.

First (one with pictures!), I found a vegan cheese sauce I really like from healthy vegan blog. It’s super easy to make, and it was so good I made it twice in one night. Also, the ingredients are so basic that most people probably have them on hand. Just be sure to keep a little extra soy milk on hand to thin it out.

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Cheese fries!

I’ve got the hang of making oatmeal raisin cookies, and decided to move on to chocolate chip cookies. I asked a friend for a recipe she and I had used last year to make some delicious butterscotch cookies, and turns out it came from the PPK. I had to add a bunch more flour, but the cookies turned out amazing. It’s really a shame I didn’t snap a picture because they were beautiful, not to mention addicting. My friend and I ate the whole batch in little over a day! In fact, he ate four as soon as they were cool enough to eat. I’m pretty sure I’m sticking with this recipe for life.

I finally went out and bought a casserole dish (can’t believe I didn’t have one before now!) and made a vegan mushroom-spinach lasagna from Veganomicon. I cut the recipe in half, which was definitely a good thing, because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to cook but half of it.

Other than that, I’ve basically been on a spaghetti kick, which I’ve been known to do from time to time. Chunky mushroom sauce, organic whole wheat noodles, and topped with nutritional yeast. Yum.

After Vegan MoFo ends in a few days, I still plan on making Ahimsa a little more food-centric. I bought two new cookbooks on Amazon earlier this week (Vegan with a Vegence and Vegan Brunch), so stay tuned for my reviews of some of those recipes.

namaste

Karmalily

I’ve Been Branded

veganmofoimageToday’s post is going to have to be short and sweet. I’m a master of procrastination and as a result I’ll be trading sleep for writing a research paper tonight.

I’ve injured myself cooking before, as I’m sure most people have, but this weekend I practically tattooed myself. I tripped as I was pulling a baking sheet out of the oven, and jabbed it into my right forearm. The result:

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The letters ESSE are now branded onto my arm, and my friends and I have had a good laugh over it.

Has anyone else had any cooking injuries they’d like to share?

Chickpea Cutlets & Gravy

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Having had my eye on Veganomicon‘s Chickpea Cutlets recipe for a while now, it’s pretty sad that I’ve had the cookbook well over a year and just now got around to making it. I’m mainly disappointed because I found out how good they were, and learned that I’d been missing out all this time.

The recipe is ridiculously simple, and the end result was really… meaty. It sort of reminded me of chicken patties. I tried these babies two ways based on that “chicken-ness”: as a sandwich, and with gravy and greens.

The sandwich was super-simple: two slices of whole wheat bread (I didn’t have any vegan buns), vegan mayo, crunchy lettuce, and the smallest bit of Dijon. It turned out lovely:

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The next night I tried them Southern-style. I’ve never made vegan gravy, but a local restaurant makes the best I’ve ever had, and since eating there a couple weeks ago I’ve been craving it. I used a recipe from About.com since I had all the ingredients handy. It turned out good and thick. I got sort of lazy with the greens and just heated up a can of kale I had. It was a really good hearty meal.

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I also really like how well these freeze. It would be simple to double the recipe and stick the extras in your freezer, especially since one can of chickpeas is two cups, and the original recipe only calls for one.

Does anyone have a favorite vegan gravy recipe? Now that I’ve mastered that one, I want to move on to even better gravies!

My first major baking FAIL

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I’m very, very new to baking. New as in, I baked my very first cookies (by myself – I’ve made them with help) 2 or 3 weeks ago. I made another batch of oatmeal raisin cookies last week using a different recipe, which were much tastier. This week I wanted to make butterscotch chip cookies using the awesomely-vegan Food Lion brand. I made butterscotch chip cookies last year with a friend, and they turned out great. So imagine my disappointment when I pulled this out of the oven:

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I used a recipe from ChooseVeg, which looked pretty simple. I’m not sure what happened unless the recipe just isn’t that great or the butterscotch chips were old or something. They tasted alright, and my roommate also approved, even if they were hideous. I still had a little more batter left, so I thought, “what if I just make them bigger?” So I did.

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They were even worse. They were absolutely gooey and gross. I really think the problem was with the chips, since in both batches the problems were centered around them it seemed. The recipe I used called for a cup of chocolate chips. Maybe a cup of butterscotch chips was too much?

At least lunch was ok. I had some Thai sesame noodles (pre-made), gimme lean sausage, and some fried bread. My mom loves making fried bread and it’s super easy – just fry a slice of really good bread in a little extra-virgin olive oil, with dried thyme and rosemary. Yumm.

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Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions about what might have gone wrong with the cookies?

Raw Banana Ice Cream

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I’ve been keeping frozen bananas in my freezer to snack on, but then I found another use for them: ice cream. Gena, of Choosing Raw, wrote about making raw vegan banana soft serve back in June. I tried it out last night for dessert, and… wow. It really was as good as she made it out to be, and I think it’s a great substitute for the much-less-healthy store-bought vegan ice creams (not to mention much cheaper).

I had to let the frozen bananas soften for a couple of minutes before processing them, because my cheap food processor couldn’t handle it at first. But after about 2 minutes, I just blended it up for another minute or so (Gena’s original recipe says 5 minutes – I guess it depends on the equipment you’re using). I also made the chocolate sauce to go with it – delicious.

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Tempeh salad & carrot fries

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Tempeh is my favorite “meaty” food. I use it in a variety of dishes, and like its cousin tofu, you can transform it into the flavors of any cuisine. For dinner tonight, I wanted something relatively easy so I could focus on steadying (isn’t it a shame that even though I’m on fall break I’m still spending most of my “relaxation” time doing homework?).

I used Andrea’s Easy Vegan Cooking’s Tempeh Salad recipe, and ate it in a pita. It was good, although I should of put some sweet pickle relish in it, and maybe some curry powder. I also opted on the side of more mayo than was in the recipe – I really enjoyed the creaminess. I decided to poach the tempeh before making the recipe (it aids in digestion), used Bragg’s instead of soy sauce, and minced red onion instead of green.

I’ve seen a number of blog posts recently about carrot fries, and was intrigued. All I did was cut carrots into a fry-shape, coat in a little extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper, and bake at 300F for about 20 minutes. They came out just crunchy enough, and they actually tasted slightly like sweet potato fries. I took the traditional route and dipped them in ketchup. I’ll probably be making carrot fries again, and I also think they’re a great way to get children to eat their veggies.

yum! :)

yum! :)

I Nibble As I Cook

I feel as though I’ve been slacking off a lot the last few days. School is getting pretty stressful, and I haven’t been feeling very well either (although today I’m doing a bit better!). But those are pretty lame excuses. So here’s a real post for Vegan MoFo.

As much as I love to cook, I tend to get lazy when I’m cooking for one. I just don’t see the point of spending two hours in the kitchen when I’m tired when I can just whip up something simple. However, I love to cook and serve vegan food to other people. I had a friend over for dinner last night (which is sort of becoming a Thursday ritual, and I couldn’t be happier!), and decided to try to make a meal that was even better than the one last week.

A couple holidays ago, I didn’t feel like spending the money and time to make my usual Tofurky, and armed with my new copy of Veganomicon, I decided to change things up a little. I made the Portobello salad with spicy mustard dressing, and remembered how great it was. So I made it again last night since my guest really likes mushrooms, and it was even better than I remember. I think when I made it the first time I might have used too much maple syrup in the dressing, because I recall a very maple-y flavor.  I also made black beans and sweet potatoes, based on the enchilada recipe from Vegan Planet. I added some chopped cilantro, an extra 2 tbs chili powder, and some cayenne powder, and it was incredibly delicious.

For dessert I made oatmeal raisin cookies, which came from Vegan YumYum. I went with that recipe over the one in Veganomicon for two reasons: First, it was cheaper to make the VeganYumYum recipe, and second, I’d read great things about the recipe. Comments on a post, or other bloggers, are a foolproof way to find out if a recipe is worth bothering with or not. They turned out crunchy on the outside and chewy inside – just the way I like my cookies.

Here are the pictures from dinner last night:

Cookies!!

Cookies!!

Nice big pile

Nice big pile

Roasted portabellos

Roasted portabellos

I loved how colorful this was!

I loved how colorful this was!

Not the best picture... sorry

Not the best picture... sorry

And about this post’s title: I really do nibble as I cook. I just can’t resist. I read an article once when I was trying to lose weight a while back that suggested not doing such a thing – you end up eat much more than you realize and putting on weight. However, I really don’t think I could cook without tasting along the way – how else are you going to know how to adjust the seasonings??

Vegan MoFo Survey

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I can’t believe I forgot to post yesterday! Wednesdays are usually hell for me, with class from 9-2 and again from 6-9. I wasn’t even thinking about food or blogging at all. So, here’s the Vegan MoFo survey that’s been going around to make up for yesterday, and later I’ll post for today.

1. Favorite non-dairy milk?
Soy – but I don’t have a preference. I usually choose the cheapest.

2. What are the top 3 dishes/recipes you are planning to cook?
The roasted portobella salad from Veganomicon, oatmeal raisin cookies, and black beans and sweet potatoes based on the inside of the enchiladas from Vegan Planet.

3. Topping of choice for popcorn?
Nutritional yeast and chili powder, and sometimes a little melted Earth Balance.

4. Most disastrous recipe/meal failure?

I can’t think of one particular time, but sometimes I can think up some pretty terrible tasting meals. Like black bean ramen. ewww.

5. Favorite pickled item?
Dill pickles, preferably homemade.

6. How do you organize your recipes?
I collect most of my recipes from vegan food blogs, and keep them in Evernote.

7. Compost, trash, or garbage disposal?
Trash, garbage disposal, and recycling.

8. If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 foods… what would they be (don’t worry about how you’ll cook them)?
A mango, black beans, and jasmine rice.

9. Fondest food memory from your childhood?

Every Thanksgiving my grandmother makes lasagna. All the kids would get a glass of root beer and a chunk of the lasagna and we’d be happy.

10. Favorite vegan ice cream?

Purely Decadent’s Cookie Dough. I can almost finish a pint at one time, which why I very rarely buy it.
11. Most loved kitchen appliance?
Either my food processor or blender. The processor makes raw food easy, and I love morning smoothies.

12. Spice/herb you would die without?
Currently, black salt. Overall, I’d have to go with cilantro or paprika.

13. cookbook you have owned for the longest time?
Vegan Planet

14. Favorite flavor of jam/jelly?
Strawberry

15. Favorite vegan recipe to serve to an omni friend?
Cupcakes or cookies. You really can’t go wrong with desserts.

16. Seitan, tofu, or tempeh?
Tempeh!!

17. Favorite meal to cook (or time of day to cook)?
Dinner, because I’m usually finished with classes for the day and can relax and eat without having to worry about my next class.

18. What is sitting on top of your refrigerator?

My roommates’ cereal boxes and some instant oatmeal.

19. Name 3 items in your freezer without looking.
Whole wheat bread, bananas, and pepper stir-fry.

20. What’s on your grocery list?
Nothing now, I just got back from the grocery store!

21. Favorite grocery store?
Any organic-/health- based store. Or Ingles when I need something quick.

22. Name a recipe you’d love to veganize, but haven’t yet.
My family’s sweet potato biscuit recipe. I’ve seen some variations on the internet, but it’s just not the same!

23. Food blog you read the most. Or maybe the top 3?
FatFree Vegan, Vegan Dad, and Bittersweet

24. Favorite vegan candy/chocolate?
Vegan resee cups!

25. Most extravagant food item purchased lately?
I’m poor and in college. No extravagant food for me :)

26. Ingredients you are scared to work with?
Yeast. It’s really intimidating. I’d love to make my own bread though.

Easiest Breakfast Pizza

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In my last post I mentioned how much I loved black salt. I mean, I really love it. I also love pizza. Breakfast pizza seemed like the only answer for my lunch. (Sorry about not having more to say – I’m a little behind in my classes and I’ve gotta get caught up!)

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Easiest Breakfast Pizza (serves 1)
1 whole-wheat pita
About 2 1/2 TBS pizza sauce (I used Muir Glen Organics – best pizza sauce I’ve ever had. Seriously.)
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 TBS crumbled Gimme Lean sausage, formed into a thin patty (makes cooking easier than crumbled, but either way is fine)
1/4 block firm tofu, crumble
1/8 heaping tsp black salt
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp yellow mustard
1 tbs each minced yellow onion and chopped green pepper
2 TBS frozen hash browns (I used half a frozen hash brown patty), thawed
Vegan cheese of choice, preferably mozzarella

First, make the tofu “eggs” and sausage. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat, and cook sausage patty until browned, about 4-5 minutes. Crumble tofu in the same pan (at the same time), and add black salt, turmeric, and yellow mustard. This will be done about the same time as the sausage.

Spread pizza sauce onto the pita, and top with cheese. I intentionally left out a suggested amount of cheese to use, because the amount really depends on which kind you are using. I was using Follow Your Heart Mozzarella, so I sliced it into thin blocks and probably used an 1/8 of a cup or so. Add the onion and green bell pepper, tofu scramble, and chopped sausage. Top with hash browns.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, until pita gets crisp and hash browns cook.

An Almost Authentic Egg Salad

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In August I moved into my first apartment after transferring to a new university, after spending two previous years living in a dorm at my old school. Dorm-living isn’t very vegan friendly, especially when you don’t have a kitchen in the building and your campus isn’t particularly concerned with providing nutritious vegan meals. I ended up eating a lot of tofu “mock” salads, styled after the chicken, egg, and tuna salads of my pre-veggie days. I rarely used a recipe, since I had grown up watching my mother whip all three salads together. When I make them I simply add vegan equivalents of her ingredients.

You can certainly argue that vegan mock chicken and egg salads are pretty much the same thing. However, I recently bought some black salt from Cosmo’s, and I was dying to use it. I’d heard that black salt provided an “eggy” flavor to tofu scrambles, but I’d never tasted it before. As soon as I pulled it out of the box, I opened the little bag and was amazed at the egg smell I encountered. After I tried a little on my finger, I was stunned. It tasted and smelled like real egg!

Here is my recipe for egg salad. The trick to a good mock egg (or chicken) salad is to measure everything to taste – I adore dill pickles, so I always add twice as much as normal people would. Use this recipe more as a guideline, and measure ingredients as you see fit. Just be careful not to add too much black salt – I have a feeling that too much would overpower any other tastes.

Not easy to get a good picture...

Not easy to get a good picture...

Almost-Authentic Egg Salad (serves 1-2)
1/2 package extra-firm tofu, crumbled
1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise (I used fat-free Nayonaise)
2 tsp Dijon or spicy brown mustard
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 dill pickle, chopped, or pickle relish to taste
2 Tbs yellow onion, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
Dash black salt (about 1/8 tsp)
1/8 tsp paprika
Black pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together – season to taste. Great on a sandwich or in a pita, over a bed of greens, or just by itself! I had mine between two slices of really good whole-wheat bread, with baby spinach and a thin slice of Follow Your Heart Mozzarella cheese.

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Cookies and a pesto pasta

veganmofoimageI am totally going to turn into one of those old ladies who stuff food into their guests’ mouths! I love feeding people, and now that I have someone who will actually let me feed them (unlike most of my family who hear the word “vegan” and are immediately against even the idea of trying a dish), I’m much happier trying new recipes out in the kitchen.

I’ve read somewhere that you should never serve a guest a new dish that you yourself haven’t tried. Rubbish! Almost every time I’ve cooked for my friend, or we’ve cooked together, it was something new. The best reason to try new dishes with a friend is that they can give you feedback about what could make a dish better, and the nice things said about your cooking is always fun! :) And if the meal turns into a disaster – who cares? Share a good laugh over it.

Last night I tried two new recipes – Artichoke Pesto Pasta Salad from FatFree Vegan Kitchen, and the Nutty Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from Sarah Kramer‘s La Dolce Vegan.

First, the dinner. I absolutely love the FatFree Vegan Kitchen – it’s probably one of my favorite blogs. I love that I don’t have to worry about eating something that’s nutritionally wrecking for me. And the presentation and Susan’s ideas are always wonderful. I’ve had the recipe for her Artichoke Pesto Pasta Salad saved in Evernote for a really long time. Even though I almost always have the ingredients on hand (I like to stock up on canned artichoke hearts just in case – is that weird?) I really have no idea why it took me so long to make it.

When I went grocery shopping earlier in the day, I guess I wasn’t thinking clearly and picked up a bunch of Italian parsley instead of basil, which the recipe called for. I was somewhat worried at first that it would taste off, but after whipping the pesto up in my food processor, I was relieved. It tasted great. I was surprised at how simple the recipe was to make. And a note to anyone making this recipe – don’t opt out of the toasted pine nuts. They added a wonderful finish to the pasta salad. And the fat in nuts is good fat!

003I’m sorry the picture isn’t great. This is actually the leftovers (I ended up with two bowls full plus what we ate for dinner!). I didn’t even think to take a picture of the plates last night. I made a simple spinach-carrot-celery salad topped with Goddess Dressing and toasted some whole wheat bread with Earth Balance and a bit of dried rosemary and thyme to go with it. Success! :)

Now onto the cookies. I was a wee bit disappointed, but considering this was the very first time I’d made cookies entirely by myself, it’s okay. They were a bit crumbly, and I guess I’m just not a big fan of oatmeal raisin cookies. I also think I might of cooked them for a few too many minutes.

001I have a feeling I’m going to start baking more often. I love the smell of the sugar and cinnamon and whatnot – baking sweets reminds me of holidays growing up.

“There is no church of vegan”

Ari Solomon has written a wonderful article for the Huffington Post entitled “Who You Callin’ Vegangelical?“. He takes a look at the way vegans are perceived by omnivores – as preachy and fanatical, for example. All vegans have encountered unfriendly meat-eaters who label us as crazy and try to condemn our lifestyle and/or try to make excuses for their consumption of animals by using poor arguments such as “I do care about animals, but as humans we’re meant to eat meat.” Um, no.

Solomon’s article really nails why omnivore’s delusions about “fanatical” vegans are false. I’m also very pleased that he targeted people who think that eating free-range or organic meat means they aren’t a part of the suffering faced by animals raised for food:

Now, before you start at me with some “humane meat” “happy meat” bullshit please take not that all animals, whether they are raised in the nastiest of factory farms or grass-fed, free-range, blah blah blah, are all sent to the same slaughterhouses. That’s right, your organic steer is being sent to the same hell as a downer cow and will meet the same ghastly end. If you are a “humane meat” consumer, please take a moment and meditate on the whole concept of humane killing… bloody, fearful, struggling, screaming, despairing humane killing. It’s never pretty and it certainly isn’t “humane.”

Well said. Companies that raise so-called “humane” meat are really pushing false pictures of how these animals are raised and killed onto consumers who probably do feel a little bad that their hunger is causing pain to other sentient animals. However, they still have the blinders on. My favorite thing about this article is that Solomon makes a point to portray vegans not as crazy radicals who are pushing their ideals onto others, but as conscientious consumers who are speaking for those that cannot. The easiest way to end the cruelty of animals raised for food is quite simple: education. Once people can no longer ignore what is going on behind the doors, they will be more likely to opt for a cruelty-free dinner plate.

Reliving the Southern foods of youth

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Although there are times where I hate to admit I grew up in the Bible-thumping South, there are aspects of living here that I enjoy. Growing up, traditional Southern foods were a staple in my family’s diet. I was raised to eat things like cornbread, cabbage, sweet potato biscuits, pound cake, and sweet iced tea. I knew what grits were when I was old enough to talk. Every house I went to had bacon grease reserved for cooking.

Needless to say, I’m not so much a fan of those same foods today as I used to be, mainly because so many of those dishes features animal products in one way or another. Even the corn would be “seasoned” with bacon fat, and everything had lard in it. So I was obviously excited about my new copy of Vegan Soul Kitchen arriving today. After glancing through it a few times, some of the recipes do look a little daunting, but that just means it’ll be more fun! :)

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I immediately wanted to try one of the book’s recipes, but being ridiculously low on groceries, I was limited. But I had a beautiful green cabbage that I had bought that I was dying to cook anyway, so I settled on the Spicy Smothered Green Cabbage. Because I’m a cheap skate, I was forced to use a relatively small pot, which meant I could only fit half the cabbage in there. I didn’t think about that at first, so I ended up with half a cabbage where it called for a whole one, but with all the oil and seasonings. It was still good though!

I also don't have a big enough bowl...

I also don't have a big enough bowl...

I think cabbage is absolutely beautiful (especially the red ones!), but the thing that makes cabbage so special to me is the smell when it’s being cooked. As soon as I get a whiff of cooked cabbage, I’m instantly taken back home.

isn't that beautiful?

isn't that beautiful?

I enjoyed cooking this dish because it was so nice to look at. The oil made the cabbage shiny, and the mustard seeds and red pepper flakes gave it some color.

The whole plate

The whole plate

Since cabbage isn’t exactly filling, I decided to go further with the whole “southern” plan for dinner.  A couple days ago a friend and I made a quinoa curry dish that only called for half a can of kidney beans. I used the Cajun-Creole Spice Blend recipe from Vegan Soul Kitchen, which I imagine would be tasty on just about anything. I also steamed 3 small turnips that were on their last days and threw on a slab of Earth Balance.

The meal was really good. The cabbage really did taste close to what I remember eating growing up, even though it didn’t have a ham-hock or bacon in it. It’s a little spicy (always good) and I hope it’s a good indication of how much I’m going to enjoy the rest of this cookbook.

I can’t wait to make more meals from Vegan Soul Kitchen. This one was so easy that I’ll be making it many, many times.