Friday, February 27, 2009

Hot Tamale Pie

I love fresh vegan tamales, but from what I've heard, making them is an all-day process. And I'm a gal on the go, so I ain't got time for all that mess. That's why I developed this Hot Tamale Pie for my cookbook:

It has a polenta-esque crust and it's filled with beans, veggies, and TexMex seasonings. Yummy in my tummy! I had some last night and today for lunch (served with a small romaine salad).

In other news, my kitty Seymour learned to drink from the sink this morning. He always sits on the counter in the bathroom when I'm getting ready in the mornings. Sometimes he'll lick the water left in the bottom of the sink after I wash my face. Today, I turned the sink on just a little, and after testing it with his paw, he tilted his head and started drinking!

Here's what he looked like afterward ... with water dripping from his little fuzzy chin:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chocolate for Breakfast!

Who says you can't have dessert first thing in the morning? I'm kind of a rebel, so that's how I roll sometimes. Like this morning when I dined on creamy Chocolate Gravy and Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits:

This is actually an old picture that I posted last year, but I really did have the same dish again this morning. I was just too lazy to take another picture when I knew there was one in the archives.

I first tried chocolate gravy on a family trip to Michigan City, Indiana (visiting the same relatives I mentioned in the dumplins post). But it's a Southern food tradition, so this recipe (as well as the biscuit one) is going in my cookbook.

Lucky for ya'll, I spilled the recipe for this in my old post, and you can find that here. The only difference in the updated recipe I used for the most recent batch is subbing whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose (since I don't use that anymore).

Testers, I've finally posted this week's recipes on my tester site...though I'm a few days late. Sorry!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy Fat Tuesday!

Hey ya'll! It's our last day of debauchery before Lent begins, so laissez les bon temps rouler (or "let the good times roll," as they say in NOLA!). I don't actually celebrate Lent, nor do I live in New Orleans, but no good Southerner misses an excuse to throw a party. Today, I brought one of Kittee Kake's yummy-nummy King Cake's to the office:

Hidden somewhere in there is a white bean dressed up like a baby (thanks to Sharpie) since I couldn't find a plastic baby anywhere.

On Saturday, Stephanie (a.k.a. Poopie Bitch) and I hosted a Mardi Gras Vegan Dessert Potluck for our veggie group Food Awareness. Here we are all decked out in proper Mardi Gras colors:

Steph brought one of Kittee's King Cakes! Hers looks way better than the one I brought to work today. She used more colored sugar ...

I made the Smlove Pie from the Veganomicon:

OMG! This was so good, ya'll. Definitely my new favorite party dessert. It's a chocolate tofu-based pie with a graham cracker crust, peanut butter caramel, candied pecans, and chocolate ganache!

Steph also brought some yummy Half Blondies/Half Brownies. So good (and believe it or not, my first blondie experience)!

Corey and his girlfriend (I can't remember her name! I'm such a bad party host!) brought some non-alcoholic Darjeeling Sangria Tea, which we promptly spiked with vodka (hey, it was a Mardi Gras party!):

The lovely raw Judith made a savory Raw Bread (garnished with fresh daffodils!) to prevent us from going into sugar comas:

Overall, the event was a huge success. We all gorged on sweets, sipped tea and hurricane cocktails, and let the good time roll:

Back row: Nic, Judith, a nice lady who's name I don't remember, Dale, Corey, his girlfriend, Rita, Max, Barbara, and Vaughan. Front row: Paul (my boyfriend), Me, and Greg

Hope ya'll have a great Fat Tuesday!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Nathan!

Friday night was my best buddy Nathan's 30th birthday! Yes, he's going to hate me for sharing his age with the world ... but whatev.

Here's the birthday boy in his younger years ... this was taken at Gay Pride in 2006.

He requested the same cake that my mom made me for my 28th birthday last October. It's the Incredible Vegan Carrot Cake from VegWeb:

My mom cut the oil and sugar in the recipe when she made it for my birthday, so I kept to her changes (about 3/4 cup oil, and 1/2 cup each brown and white sugars).

I made the cake in two layers and frosted with a tasty Tofutti cream cheese-based icing. Then I attempted to decorate with some pre-made colored icing that I found in the baking aisle at the grocery store. I'm sure it was loaded with nasty chemical ingredients, but it's a birthday, so who cares.

We started the evening at the Young Avenue Deli, where I ate a tasteless portabello burger and fries. The Deli has amazing fries, but all the veggie food there is bland and boring. Then we moved to Molly Fontaine's, an adorable cocktail bar located inside a converted Victorian mansion. That's where we cut the cake and sang happy birthday.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Un-Chicken 'n' Dumplins

When I was a kid, my mom and I traveled to Michigan City, Indiana every summer to visit some pseudo-relatives (they were actually my aunt's relatives, but they felt like family). The family matriarch, an almost senile old lady, always made chicken 'n' dumplins. Though they lived in Indiana, the family hailed from the South, so it wasn't uncommon for them to make traditional Southern dishes.

Since she was super-old and kinda losing it, she always left the chicken bones in the pot. Others had to go behind her back and pick them out before serving. Gross, huh? Well, my Un-Chicken 'n' Dumplins is totally bone-free:

This is another cookbook recipe that I'll likely put up on the tester site next week. I developed it last winter, but it needed some work, so I made it again on Tuesday night. It's basically chicken-flavored seitan cooked in a chicken-ish broth with whole wheat dumplins' (we never pronounce the "g" down here), potatoes, carrots, and peas. Perfect hearty dish for cold winter nights, which unfortunately we're having again after the spring tease of last week. Bah!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Tofu Scramble

Every vegan has a preferred scramble. Some go back to a cherished, dog-eared recipe in their favorite cookbook. Others develop their own and either memorize it or write it all down. I've got mine typed up in my Cookin' Crunk recipe binder, ready to go for my cookbook.

I've been eating this scramble for breakfast everyday with Ezekial toast spread with sweet potato butter. The veggies always vary, but this time I used garlic, spinach, and mushrooms.

Since scrambles are a dime a dozen, my recipe's no big secret. I'm gonna share it with ya'll here. I actually call it Cheeze "Eggs" rather than tofu scramble 'cause it contains nooch and reminds me of my mom's cheese eggs (when she'd melt shredded cheddar in my scrambled eggs).

Bianca's Cheeze "Eggs"
1 lb. extra-firm tofu
1 cup chopped vegetables, optional
3 Tbsp. soymilk
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. celery salt

Blend soymilk, soy sauce, and spices in a small bowl. Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray or use a couple teaspoons of olive oil to sauté veggies (if using) for 3 to 4 minutes. Crumble in tofu and add spice mixture. Cook several minutes until any water from the tofu is absorbed and tofu is hot.

Serves 4 to 5.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sweet Tater Butter

A few months ago, my mom and Granny gave me a humungous box of sweet potatoes. Thankfully, they stay fresh for months (aren't root veggies amazing for that reason?!), so I've been slowly working my way through them. Now I'm down to the bottom of the barrel, and a few are beginning to go funky. I knew I needed a recipe to use a good chunk of them before it was too late.

Leave it to bloggers to come through in such a time of need. Laura from Peace by Pastries posted this delicious Crock-pot Sweet Potato Butter recipe a few weeks ago. I mentally bookmarked it and finally got around to making it yesterday. It took 12 hours in the Crock-pot.

A couple pounds of sweet potatoes made two jars about this size. I put one in the fridge for immediate use and attempted to can another jar in a boiling water bath. But for some reason, the jar seal has yet to pop. I'm starting to worry I didn't can it properly. Oh well, that just means I'll have to eat it up more quickly.

Since this stuff is super-cinnamony with a hint of a smoky sweet flavor, I don't think eating it up fast will be a problem. I had a healthy smear on some Ezekial bread with my breakfast this morning!

To the testers: I've posted several new recipes to the Crunk Cookin' site, all of which come together to make a tasty wafflewich.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hooray for Zukay!

The super-awesome folks over at Zukay Live Foods sent me a sample package of their new vegan probiotic salsas and relishes last week. I'm a huge fan of live cultures, and I couldn't wait to get home from work on Thursday to crack open a jar.

I used to have some gassy issues after eating certain foods, so I began taking a daily probiotic supplement several months ago to straighten out my digestive tract. I rarely have any problems now, and I've become quite probiotic-obsessed.

I started with the Mild Salsa Viva and the Garlic Dill Relish:

When I opened the salsa, the mixture began fizzing and bubbling and almost raised out of the jar! But since the salsa contains live active cultures, that's totally normal. See, just read this label from the top of each jar:

Taste-wise, the mild salsa couldn't be better. It has a bit of a fizzy mouthfeel (thanks to those live cultures) that reminds of the carbonation in soda. Since I don't drink soda anymore, but still miss the fizziness, I found the salsa to be a nice healthier stand-in.

The garlic relish is less fizzy in texture, but the taste is spot-on. The garlic isn't overpowering and it complements the salty pickled cucumbers perfectly. Unlike some commercially-available jarred relishes, this stuff tastes as fresh as if you'd just home-canned it yourself. I ate some of the relish on a Lifelife Jumbo Smart Dog on an Ezekial Bread Bun for dinner tonight:

Here' s the whole plate — Veggie Dog, Salt & Pepper Tortilla Chips with the mild Zukay salsa, and a small side salad with sesame shitake dressing:

Next up, I'm gonna try the Zukay Horseradish Dill Relish and Hot Salsa Viva. I'll let ya'll know that goes after I finish the jars I already have open.

Since Zukay is still pretty new, the products aren't available in some cities yet, including Memphis. But there is a store locator on their website, so ya'll should click over there and check the availability in your neck of the woods. If Zukay isn't for sale in your area yet, the products are available for purchase on their website too.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Makin' Whoopie (Pies)

Since my boyfriend is not a fan of sweets (except for very un-vegan gelatin-laced gummi bears ... ick!), I opted to make Valentine's Day treats a little early to share with my co-workers. After pouring through dessert sections in several cookbooks, I settled on Kittee's Whoopie Pies from Papa Tofu:

Look, I know they're not that pretty. There's frosting spilling over the sides, and the cookies didn't get quite as a mounded and cake-like as they were supposed to. But trust me when I say they tasted better than they looked.

Since Kittee's recipe calls for a peanut butter filling (which sounds delish, but not very Valentine's-y), I used the strawberry variation from another whoopie pie recipe in the VegNews Magazine. It called for fresh strawberries (which I had frozen from last spring), soy marg, powdered sugar, and soymilk.

Unfortunately, I learned that margarine separates more than shortening in a frosting. So you could see a little separation in the pink filling. It tasted good, but not quite as pretty and fluffy as it would have gotten with shortening. I doubt I'll ever use margarine in a frosting again.

All that being said, these were tasty, and thanks to all the powdered sugar in the filling, super-duper sweet. Hope ya'll have a Happy V-Day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Every Cookbook Needs a Burger

I think all vegan cookbooks should have at least one burger recipe, and until last night, I didn't have one for my Southern vegan cookbook. Now I have this tasty Black-Eyed Pea & Brown Rice Burger:

Luckily, I had a couple cups of cooked black-eyed peas in the freezer, so making this was a snap. It's loaded with veggies, some spicy jalepeno, rice, peas, and seasonings. But I think it needs a little more of something before it's ready to go.

It wasn't bland, but it didn't blow me away either. I honestly think the main missing ingredient is a sufficient amount of salt. And maybe something more tomato-y, like tomato paste. I'll work on these and get back to ya.

On another note, I just made whoopie pies (pics tomorrow, I promise!) and not only did I lick the chocolate batter and frosting from the bowls, I also ate one and a half whoopie pies after I finished sandwiching the frosting between the cookies. And all this about 30 minutes before my bed time! I feel like such a lard ass ... does anyone else have a problem gorging when they bake?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I Love Canada!

I've never been to Canada (although one time I almost took a road trip to Niagara Falls while visiting Indiana ... it fell through at the last minute). But after seeing veganized versions of the traditional Canadian poutine dish — fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds — appear on the blogs, I knew I HAD to try it. I'm a fan of anything loaded with gobs of gravy!

First, I cut some fries using my new mandolin's julienne blade. I sprayed the fries with non-stick cooking spray and baked them in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes (I really didn't time it ... just kept sampling until they were done).

Then, I whipped up a quick gravy using a cup of water, a couple tablespoons of flour, and an un-chicken boullion cube. For the cheese curds, I mashed about a fifth of a tofu block with some vegan mayonnaise and a teensy pinch of sugar.

Wow! Wikipedia tells me poutine is a Canadian comfort food, often served at fast food joints there (even McDonald's and Burger King). And after one bite, I believe in poutine's comforting powers. This plate was a little too much food for me, but I had an extremely hard time stopping when I was full. I could eat this stuff everyday. Seriously. Thank you, Canada!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Oh Billy! Beer Chili

My parents discovered the wonders of beer chili on a recent trip to the Spaghetti Warehouse. They both ordered plates of spaghetti topped with tangy beer chili and melted cheese, and now they can't get enough. My mom decided to recreate the dish at home, and while searching for a meat recipe, she came across this vegan recipe for Oh Billy! Beer Chili.

She printed it off Veg Web and gave it to me. I made it last night and served it over whole wheat spaghetti:

This stuff is so awesome! It's got a whole tube of Gimme Lean sausage, two kinds of beans, and a can of Papst Blue Ribbon Light (my favorite cheap beer!). I love the way the beer gives the chili a tangy taste, and it was even more delicious for leftovers today.

The only change I made to the recipe was halving the hot sauce (it calls for 1/4 cup!) and omitting the cup of water, which it calls for in addition to the can of beer. It seemed like water would lessen the beer's intense flavor and really water down the chili. I like mine thick!

Later this week, I'll definitely be using this chili as a topping for homemade oven-baked French fries.

Note to the testers: I have FINALLY posted a couple new recipes on the tester site!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I'm Online Again!!!

I FINALLY got a new computer — a cute little silver Macbook — today! My insurance money from the break-in covered it. The stolen computer was an iMac desktop model, but I opted for a laptop this time so I can take it with me when I leave the house (and if those stupid crackhead neighbors try breaking in again while I'm at work, the laptop won't be here).

Luckily, it instantly connected with the internet when I plugged it in to my modem. That means I'll be able to update my tester site with new recipes very soon! Right now, I'm working on updating my iTunes library and all that mess. But as soon as I get this computer caught up, I'll be back in business. Yippee!

Here's what my new computer looks like:

Friday, February 6, 2009

For the Love of Beets

The lovely Amey of Vegan Eats and Treats was so sweet to send me her illustrated cookzine, Gaxtronomus Maximus. It's filled with adorable pictures and hand-written copies of her favorite vegan recipes from various cookbooks. To celebrate my newfound love of beets, I had to try the Crimson Cabbage Borscht with Tofu-Dill Sour Cream (originally from Voluptuous Vegan) first:

Isn't that color amazing?! Beets are beautiful, and I love how they dye everything red (including your fingertips). This hearty soup contains cubed beets, cabbage, potatoes, white beans, carrots, and kale (which I subbed for the beet greens in the recipe) but you can't tell cause they're all red!

In fact, today (Friday) is National Wear Red Day, when people all over the country wear crimson to show their support for women's heart disease awareness. So I'll definitely be eating the leftover borscht for lunch, and I'm also wearing a red scarf (I'm a sucker for a theme!).

On the heart health theme, even the American Heart Association has a pro-veggie stance. This is from their list of tips to lower cholesterol on their website:
Reduce the meat in your meal
Try meatless meals featuring vegetables or beans — think eggplant lasagna, a big grilled portobello mushroom on a bun in place of a burger, or beans-n-weenies without the weenies. Or think of meat as a condiment in casseroles, stews, soups and spaghetti — use it sparingly, just for flavor, rather than as a main ingredient.
Pretty cool huh?! Now, if only we could get them to advocate full-on veganism....

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Eazy Cheezy

Sometimes a few random condiments, spices, and tofu can combine to taste just like something they're totally not. Like this Easy Cheeze Danish from The Uncheese Cookbook:

It's just crumbled tofu mixed with a little maple syrup and some other spices (I can't tell ... just read the book) and broiled in the oven over sprouted grain toast. But it tastes surprisingly like the cheese danishes I remember from my omni days.

Of course, it's far, far healthier than those saturated fat-laden donuts. And that made it a perfect start to my morning, served with my usual iced green tea and fresh-squeezed orange-grapefruit juice.

As a former cheese-aholic, The Uncheese Cookbook has quickly become one of my favorite cookbooks! I don't even think I could stomach real cheese anymore. In fact, (gasp!) I think I like the faux stuff — both homemade cheezes and the heavily-processed soy-based cheeses — even better than cow kind. I never thought I'd say that in my lacto-ovo days!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Raw Food Anniversary

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Raw Food Tuesdays! That's my once-a-month all-raw, one-day food cleanse. It actually began as Raw Food Mondays, but as a newspaper reporter with Monday deadlines, the lack of coffee on raw Mondays was a killer. So I switched to the first Tuesday of each month, which coincides nicely with shot nurse day at my office — when I get my monthly B-12 shot.

To start off my special raw day, I had a Tropical Hemp-Flax Smoothie:

I used 1/4 cup raw hemp seeds, 1 cup water, 2 dates, 1 frozen banana, the juice of one orange, one cubed mango, 1/4 cup raw oats, 1 tablespoon flax seed, and a squirt of agave. It filled this jar up twice. Tasty and surprisingly satisfying.

But of course, I was hungry by 10:30 a.m. So I snacked on these yummy Raw Oat Coconut Date Balls (a.k.a. Steph's Raw Balls):

Stephanie of Poopie Bitch (yes, I know I've linked to her a lot lately ... she's just that awesome) came up with this recipe for a raw potluck we went to in January. I don't think she'll mind if I share it at the end of this post. These are so amazing (best raw dessert I've ever had ... well, except for raw cheezecake, maybe).

For lunch, I had this HUGE Avocado and Grapefruit Salad with Lemon-Herb Dressing from Raw Food Made Easy:

Just field greens, avocado, grapefruit, sunflower seeds, and a tasty vinaigrette. It was fairly filling, but I snacked on a pink lady apple, some grapes, and more date balls in the afternoon.

By dinner, I was starving. Luckily, this AWESOME Raw BBQ and Coleslaw plate did the trick:

My raw friend Judith shared her recipe for raw barbecue sauce (it's from a book and I'm not sure which one, so I can't reprint it), which I mixed with shredded carrots. I can definitely say this is my new favorite raw dish. Here in Memphis, barbecue is king (we even have great barbecue tofu and mushroom dishes offered at local BBQ joints). So my cravin' for 'cue was satisfied with this dish. On the side, I made raw coleslaw from Raw Food Made Easy.

Looking back on my year of raw food days, I'm not sure if one day a month of eating only raw food really makes a difference body-cleansing-wise. But I do know that it's an amazing lesson in self-discipline. By dinner time, I find myself craving cooked foods — mainly junk food like cupcakes, chips, whatever. But I refrain from indulging all day long. By the next day, I always gain a new — albeit fleeting — appreciation for the cooked foods I enjoy for the rest of the month.

Will I ever go all-the-way raw? Who knows. I'd like to think I will when I get old and my metabolism slows and daily caloric needs decrease. For now, I'll just continue with my monthly raw days.

Now for that recipe I promised, courtesy of Ms. Stephanie:

Steph's Raw Balls
1/2 cup oats
1 cup walnuts
10-ounce container of pitted dates
A few generous squeezes of raw agave
Shredded coconut, for rolling

Process oats in a food processor until they form a fine powder. Add walnuts and process until small crumbs form. Add dates and process again.

Add squirts of agave and process until the mixture begins to ball up. Keep adding agave until it looks like you can roll them into balls in your palms.

Form the mixture into small balls, roll in coconut, and refridgerate until ready to eat. Yum!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cookin' with Steph & Bianca

On Friday night, Stephanie (from the vegan blog Poopie Bitch) and I led a cooking demonstration at the Pu-Lin Buddhist temple. Henry, the guy who runs the temple, hosts free weekly vegetarian cooking classes with a rotating cast of demonstrators. This was our first class, so we decided to demystify tofu with a Vegan Lasagna with Tofu-Cashew Ricotta and Mushroom Marinara.

According to Henry's Buddhist tradition, one shouldn't eat onions or garlic. So we had to make our sauce from scratch since most jarred sauces contain onions and garlic. We used the Mushroom Marinara recipe from Veganomicon but left out the minced garlic.

We also made the Tofu Cashew Ricotta from Vcon. It was the first time I'd tried this stuff (Steph had made it previously), and wow! It's so creamy and delicious. I could eat it with a spoon by itself.

Besides sauce and "ricotta," we also stuck some nutritious veggies in between the layers. Here's Steph sauteeing some spinach to mix with carrot and zucchini:

And here we are spreading the veggies on:

There were about 15 people in the class and we received lots of compliments. Someone even said they couldn't tell the lasagna was cheeseless!

I should also give props to Richard, Stephanie's husband. He took these awesome pics with my new camera, and I'm super jealous of his skills. I'm still figuring the camera out but I haven't been able to get great results like this without using a flash.