Thursday, April 30, 2009

Country Fried!

Hey ya'll! I finally got around to re-testing one of my favorite cookbook recipes last night. And this time, I took some much-needed advice from my testers (thanks testers!). Here's my new and improved Country Fried Tempeh Steak with Soymilk Gravy:

It's not health food. That's for certain. It's breaded, fried, and smothered in definitely-not-fat-free gravy. But it's good. And sometimes that's what matters. Fried foods are great in moderation (or so I choose to believe).

On the side, I tried Susan V's Wasabi-Roasted Asparagus from Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen:

It was tasty, but next time I'm adding WAY more wasabi. Susan's recipe calls for as little or as much as you want, based on your personal taste for spiciness. Since I love the sinus burn from wasabi, I needed much more. I used 3/4 teaspoon of wasabi powder and I could barely taste it. Even still, the sesame oil gave the roasted asparagus a tasty flavor.

I also made a batch of Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread from Bean Vegan:

Stephanie (Poopie Bitch) gave me a jar of sourdough starter that she made from her batch (which she got from Bazu in the mail). This was my first time working with the starter (which I've named Lestat, like the vampire ... cause it will live forever so long asI feed it), and I was really impressed with the strong sourdough flavor. I slathered a slice with Earth Balance and ate it with this meal.

On a final sweet note, I made these Neopolitan Bars from the April issue of VegNews:

They're one of Hannah Kaminsky's (of My Sweet Vegan fame) recipes, and man were they delicious! The cake part was a bit like a blondie spiked with my hand-picked organic strawberries. These are topped with a rich chocolate ganache. My only complaint — the ganache recipe calls for way too much liquid. I had to add extra chocolate chips to make it creamy, and though the picture in the magazine shows the ganache all firmed up, mine never set. Still tasted delicious though!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It's All About Balance

I try to squeeze in most of my food groups with every meal (except for fruit, which I drink in my morning juice). Sometimes, the balance doesn't always work so well, but last night's dinner was pretty food pyramid-friendly. My protein and green veggies combined for this Swiss Chard & Baked Tofu:

This is my favorite way to prepare chard. I first tried the recipe (which I found here) last spring when I was doing a week-long local eating project. I had bought Swiss chard for the first time at the farmers market and didn't know what to do with it. I stumbled on the baked tofu and chard idea while googling. This batch of chard also came from the farmers market.

Warning: The tofu in this dish is not heavily seasoned, and that's kinda how I like it. But I also like raw, unseasoned tofu, so you might want to add some soy sauce to the marinade if that's your thing. I'd like it that way too. I'm not very picky.

On the side, I probably downed a couple servings of carbs with this Cheesy Stovetop Rotini from The Uncheese Cookbook:

It also had red bell pepper and walnuts, so that's more veggies and protein (plus awesome omega-3's). The sauce was very unlike my own recipe for cashew cheeze sauce, which is much heavier on the nooch. I liked the Uncheese version, but it was definitely different. It didn't contain any butter or oil, and the taste of tahini outweighed the nutritional yeast flavor. Good for mixing things up a bit.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Organic Strawberry Fields Forever

Every year around this time, I start dreaming up all sorts of uses for fresh, juicy strawberries as I anticipate my first batch of hand-picked, organic berries from Windermere Farms. I've been salivating over thoughts of shortcake for weeks now. Thankfully, all my dreaming paid off on Saturday when I dove into this gorgeous Strawberry Shortcake:

You can find the recipe here. The "shortcakes" are actually sweet vegan biscuits topped with sugared strawberries and creamy Soyatoo. Yum, yum!

Stephanie (Poopie Bitch), her husband, and I hand-picked a combined eight pounds of organic berries (I got five pounds, she got three) at Windermere Farms on Saturday morning. Windermere is a small locally-owned farm in Raleigh, a suburb of Memphis. Farmers Frieda and Ken Lansing grow strawberries (and later lima beans and squash) every year, and they're certified organic!

Last night, I used more berries to make this Strawberry Pop from Vegan Soul Kitchen:

I won't divulge Bryant Terry's recipe since it's printed in his cookbook, but it's basically a carbonated, healthy version of strawberry soda! A tall glass of this was super-refreshing in our 80 degree temps!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Vegan Food Swap #2

Last month, a few of my friends and I held our first Vegan Food Swap, in which we all made a dish and split it up four ways so we'd each have plenty of leftovers for the coming weekend. We held the second installment of Vegan Food Swap last Thursday at my house with only three of the original participants.

Stephanie (of Poopie Bitch) made these awesome BBQ Seitan Sandwiches with Coleslaw and Homemade Buns:

Since it was a swap and not a potluck, we weren't eating right away. Steph packaged two buns for each participant, and we stored seitan and coleslaw in separate containers. Steph's buns were so freakin' amazing! I'd never tried fresh baked buns before, but these may convince me to start making my own.

Nic brought Vegan Tortiere:

This was stuffed with all sorts of deliciousness - Gimme Lean sausage, black olives, celery, peppers, onions, potatoes (I think). And the crust is really biscuity and light. I still have a few servings of this left and I can't wait to dig in.

I made my Tofu Manicotti with Raid the Garden Marinara:

It's a recipe I'm considering adding to my cookbook, though it's not really a Southern dish so maybe I shouldn't. But it's basically manicotti stuffed with ricotta-like herbed tofu. The sauce is made with whole tomatoes and it's super chunky and vegetable-y (yes, I invented that word). I served this with a salad of fresh farmer's market lettuce!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bandito Burrito

Remember that song "Banditos" by the Refreshments from like 1990-something? It was all: "So just how far down do you wanna go/We could talk it out over a cup of joe/And you could look deep into my eyes/Like I was a supermodel/Uh-huh."

Anyway, this meal — the Bandito Burrito from Vegan Bites — got that song stuck in my head for days:

I don't usually follow recipes for burritos. I just shove some seasoned beans and rice and veggies in a tortilla and stuff it in my face. But I've been wanting to make more recipes from Vegan Bites, a book designed for vegan singles. All the recipes only make a couple servings. This one made for two burritos, filled with pintos, red bell pepper, corn, jalepeno, and onion. I topped my filling with melted Nacho Teese. Yum!

Check out that sexy kale on the side:

I picked up a huge batch from one of my favorite farming couples — Keith and Jill Forrester of Whitton Flowers & Produce — at the Memphis Farmers Market. I sauteed it with a little oil, garlic, and plenty of sriracha. Nothing beats fresh greens from the farmer's market.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sausage 'n' Biscuits

Since I'm on a bit of an Uncheese Cookbook kick, I couldn't resist making a batch of the Chedda Biscuits for breakfast this week:

These are unlike any biscuits I've ever made. For one thing, they're drop biscuits so they don't have the smooth look of my homemade rolled-out biscuits. That explains the funky shape.

I also load my homemade biscuits down with non-hydrogenated shortening and soy margarine because I believe those things are necessary to create a fluffy, flaky biscuit. But Joanne Stepaniak's uncheese recipes tend to be on the low-fat side, so this recipe didn't call for any fat.

The result? A much drier biscuit than I would have liked. However, these little guys — flavored with nooch and dill — had a savory kick that would be perfect for dipping in a creamy bowl of soup.

I served my mornin' biscuits with Tempeh Breakfast Sausage from Judy Brown's Guide to Natural Foods Cooking, an old vegan hippie cookbook I found at a thift store:

These were tasty! They're made with crumbled tempeh and flavored with miso, sage, garlic, and cayenne. The patties don't hold together very well, but they were perfect stuffed in between heavily Earth Balanced biscuits (hey, I had to add some fat in there!).

Hey testers! My Mint Julep brownie recipe is up on the tester blog....just so ya know.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Eggless Frittata

I've been loving faux eggy dishes lately — omelettes, tofu "egg" salad, quiche, and frittata. When I stumbled onto the Frittata recipe in The Uncheese Cookbook, I knew I had to give it a try. Here's the finished product, a tofu-based pie baked with potatoes, green bell peppers, onions, and pureed tomatoes:

It set quite well while baking, but I couldn't wait the suggested 10 minutes afterward to dig in. Due to my impatience, it didn't plate well, but it tasted amazing in between bites of buttered sprouted grain toast:

At opening day of the farmer's market (yea!!!), I picked up a mystery green labeled Baby Jean:

The seller told me Baby Jean were the young shoots of fresh greens (she didn't say what kind of greens and I didn't think to ask). When she informed me that it tasted a lot like broccoli rabe, I knew I had to give it a try.

I found simple instructions for sauteeing broccoli rabe on the Internet....simply saute with a little oil and minced garlic and toss with salt:

The result — Delicious! I wish I'd bought more than one small package. It tasted like broccoli and collard greens got together and had a baby. Maybe that's why they call it Baby Jean.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Chickpea's Southern Sista

I needed to juice up my cookbook's appetizer section (which is currently lacking in content), and I'd been wondering how black-eyed peas would taste in hummus. The answer? Oh my god, awesome! As evidenced by this Black Eyed Pea Garlic Hummus:

It may not look super hot in my shabby Tupperware, but I spooned it in and drizzled it with olive oil and paprika before remembering that I needed to shoot it first. Oh well. I promise it tasted amazing on toasted whole wheat pita triangles.

The recipe is pretty basic. I was going to get all fancy and add stuff like sundried tomatoes or roasted red peppers, but I wanted to sample it plain before adding to it. I was so pleased with the result of the plain garlicky black-eyed pea hummus that I decided to leave it alone. Sometimes simple is better. And to be honest, I liked it better than any chickpea hummus I've ever made.

I served the hummus pita toasts with a large side salad of mixed greens, carrots, cucumbers, tomato, snow pea pods, roasted sunflower seeds, soy nuts, and vegan ranch dressing:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Nachos = Best Thing Ever

Oh nachos, how do I love thee? Lemme count the ways. Or lemme just show you this picture of today's lunch — Black Bean Teesy Nachos:

Probably the best meal I've had all year so far. Seriously. I love nachos more than anyone could ever understand.

These are made with a base of crunchy Guiltless Gourmet Yellow Corn Chips (baked, not fried) and topped with black beans, Nacho Teese sauce, homemade guacamole, Roma tomato, black olives, and a few Trappy's jalepeno peppers.

The Nacho Teese (which my dad ordered for me last month from Vegan Essentials) is absolutely amazing. It's softer than the regular Teese, but it still comes in a tube. Nuke it in the microwave for 30 seconds and it turns into a spicy sauce for all your nacho needs.

As for the guac, I mashed half an avocado and stirred in a clove of garlic, a tablespoon or so of red onion, diced tomato, the juice of one lime, and plenty of salt and pepper. I can't wait to eat more of these for lunch again tomorrow!!!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sippin' On Some Sorghum Syrup

Ya'll know Three Six Mafia? They're this awesome Memphis crunk rap group that sings "Sippin' On Some Syrup" (but it's pronounced sis-urp). Anyway, they inspired this post's title, which involves a magical breakfast syrup made from sorghum and baking soda.

I made the sorghum syrup for my Sorghum Molasses French Toast:

It's another cookbook recipe. The French toast is a simple vegan version with a hint of cinnamon sweetness. For this batch, I used my go-to bread — Ezekieal 4:9 sprouted grain bread. The real beauty, however, lies in that foamy syrup drizzled over the toast.

When you heat sorghum on low heat with a pinch of baking soda, it gets all foamy and fluffy and delicious. Sorghum isn't available in all parts of the country, but molasses makes a great substitute.

What's the difference? Sorghum is made from a certain type of grass and it's a tad bit lighter in color and milder in flavor than it's darker cousin molasses. Molasses is a byproduct of sugarcane or sugar beet production. Both are high in nutrients (like calcium, potassium, and iron). Southerners often mistakenly refer to both products as "sorghum molasses," but they're a tad bit different. Even so, both make delicious syrup when heated with a little baking soda.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Eats

My family doesn't really celebrate Easter anymore, but I spent plenty of time with family and friends over the weekend anyway. Not really in an Easter celebration, just hanging out and eating a lot.

On Saturday afternoon, I drove to Jonesboro, Arkansas (my hometown) to have a picnic with my best friend Sheridan (we've been best friends since junior high, but now she lives in Little Rock ... she was also in Jonesboro visiting her family). Here's Sheridan enjoying a Vegan Bologna Sandwich with Tofutti American Cheese and Mustard:

We picnicked in the huge empty field beside my parent's house. It was a little chilly, but still really fun. Her boyfriend Drew took this picture of Sher and I:

We also had chips and bean dip ... and this awesome Vegan Strawberry Bread Pudding:

It was supposed to be strawberry/rhubarb bread pudding, according to this recipe (click the link to see for yourself). But we couldn't find fresh rhubarb. Didn't really matter though because this was perfect without it.

Even though I'm 28, my parents still give me Easter baskets. Though my dad ordered me a vegan chocolate Easter bunny last month, my parents gave me another Easter gift on Friday — cute new PJs, an iTunes gift card, a Kroger gift card, and this Oster 12-speed blender!!!

My dad read my last post about my stupid old blender and felt sorry for me. Now I can crush ice, make super smoothies, and puree soups! Thanks mama and daddy!

On Sunday, my parents and I stopped by my Granny's house because she'd made a few dishes that she wanted me to test for my cookbook, like this Beans and Greens Soup:

It was comforting and wholesome, and we decided the final recipe would be even better with added diced tomatoes. She also perfected her tasty Vegan Strawberry Pie, another cookbook recipe:

And Granny gave me an Easter basket filled with her home-canned goods — tomatoes, cucumber relish, pickles, green beans, and some garlic from her garden:

Happy Easter!!!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sufferin' Soup

Since I'll soon be writing a story on Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen for the Memphis Flyer (the altweekly paper where I work), I'm trying to test as many of his recipes as possible. Last night, I made his Succatoash Soup with Garlicky Cornbread Croutons:

Let me start by saying that this is a damn tasty soup, especially with those crunchy cornbread croutons and broiled corn kernels on top. But I had a bitch of a time trying to make it thanks to my stupid blender. I hate my blender.

After cooking the limas and corn, you're supposed to puree it in "small batches." But I was impatient and loaded the blender at least three-fourths of the way full with piping hot soup. I knew that was a recipe for disaster, but I did it anyway.

I held the lid on tight and hit the blend button. But my hand over the top wasn't enough to stop the pressure. Hot soup exploded all over my countertops, my stove, my walls, my floor, my face. Ick! Huge, huge mess. But I perservered by starting over and blending in smaller batches.

Unfortunately, my blender sucks and didn't do the best job pulverizing the cooked limas and corn. Bryant's soup looks much creamier in the photo illustration in his book. But regardless, it was really delicious.

On another note, I just returned home from a rooftop party (that was actually held in a ballroom due to the threat of inclement weather) at the Peabody Hotel. My favorite local band — Lord T and Eloise — played and they were amazing.

Lord T and Eloise

If I had to pick a musical mascot for my blog, they'd be it. They dress in colonial formals and powder wigs and play aristocrunk with rapper Al Kapone ... it doesn't get much crunker than that. Seriously. Crunk. Memphis crunk.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Raw

Another first Tuesday of the month, another raw food cleanse gone by. Today's uncooked eats were all courtesy of my favorite book, Ani's Raw Food Kitchen. The morning started with this bowl of Luscious Lemon Pudding with Fresh Strawberries:

I'd wanted to make Ani's Fruit Parfait — raw nut-based pudding, fruit, and dehydrated buckwheat oat groats — since I borrowed my parents' dehydrator. But for some crazy reason, my Whole Foods doesn't carry raw buckwheat (at least not that I could find). Instead, I settled for this parfait sans buckwheat. Tasty, light, lemon-y, delicious.

Lunch wasn't quite as successful. I'm not sure what drove me to make the Japanese Miso-Shitake Soup since I'm kinda squeamish about exotic mushrooms (especially eaten raw!):

The mushrooms were too squishy and the soup broth contained WAY too much olive oil for my tastes (even after I cut the recommended amount in half). The whole bowl was just slimy. I ate about half before I couldn't take it anymore. Luckily, I had this Garden Salad with Sesame Sunflower Croutons as well:

Before hitting the gym after work, I scarfed down a Fuji apple and an Apple Pie Larabar.

But the highlight of the day was this awesome dinner — Sun Burger on Sesame Sunflower Bread with Sun-dried Tomato Ketchup and Hot Mustard Sauce:

Since I had the dehydrator for awhile, I made the recipe that's been calling my name since I bought Ani's book. The "bread" is actually more of a flax sunflower seed cracker. Ani suggests dehydrating for less time to make it more pliable and bread-like, but she also said the more cracker-like "breads" keep for months in the fridge. So I made a big batch and dehydrated for extra time.

Here's what the Sun Burger looks like on its own:

Lots of veggies, flax, and sunflower seeds. Yum! And these aren't dehydrated for as long as the bread so they have a softer texture. The "ketchup" and "mustard" really made this meal something special. I served the burger with a huge ass garden salad:

Four hours after dinner, I'm still satisfied. That's an amazing feat on raw day! Other than the icky soup, today's eats were some of my favorites over the year I've been doing this monthly cleanse.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Tofu Eggless Salad Rocks My World

I rarely get food cravings since my meals are typically planned out by the week. I crave whatever I have written in the menu for whatever day I'm on. But sometimes, I NEED a Tofu Eggless Salad Sandwich:

This is one of my favorite warm weather staples — creamy crumbled tofu mixed with Vegenaise, plenty of dill, celery, and onion. Yum yum! Perfect with a few natural potato chips and a small green salad.

Here's my recipe:

1 pound extra firm tofu, drained, pressed, and crumbled
2 stalks celery, minced
1/3 cup green olives, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup Vegenaise
1/4 cup pickle relish
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. dill weed
1/4 tsp. sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Spread on sandwiches right away or chill in the fridge.

Makes about 8 sandwiches.

Hey Testers!!! I've posted a recipe for my Dijon Pecan Seitan over at the tester site. Check it out...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Happy Birthday Daddy!

My awesome dad turned 55 on Friday! When I asked what kind of cupcakes he'd like, he requested something low-fat (he's watching the calories) but with peanut butter and chocolate. Now, we all know peanut butter isn't low-fat, but he's cool with "good fat." He just wanted me to sub applesauce for oil in whatever I made.

So I used the opportunity to make a lower fat version of the Peanut Butter Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World:

I used 1/3 cup applesauce in place of the 1/3 cup oil. I also subbed almond milk for the soymilk because that's what I had on hand. And I learned a valuable lesson — you cannot make faux buttermilk by adding vinegar to almond milk. Unlike with soymilk, the almond milk gets chunky and gross. I had to throw my measured almond milk with vinegar out and pour another cup full sans the vinegar.

Here's my dad, decked out in his Harley hat and tee, blowing out his two birthday candles (there's no way I could fit 55 in there!):

And my mom (also sporting her bling-bling Harley belt ... though she's scared to actually get on a motorcycle) enjoyed a cupcake too:

For dinner, we went to Cozymel's, a Mexican chain restaurant that makes fresh guacamole at the table. They don't have any totally vegan dishes on the menu, but I ordered the Lettuce Wrap Vegetable Fajitas without cheese. So, so good. Sorry I didn't take pictures there.

Happy birthday, daddy! And yes, he reads the blog.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Vegan Soul

I'm not the only Memphis vegan specializing in Southern cuisine. Cookbook author and Bluff City native Bryant Terry has been cookin' up vegan soul food for much longer than I. He's the co-author of Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen and the just released cookbook, Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African American Cuisine.

Bryant grew up in Memphis' Whitehaven neighborhood, but moved to New York City later in life. He's a huge inspiration for my cooking and his delicious dishes prove that Southern food doesn't have to be all about grease and fatback. I'm reviewing his latest cookbook for the Memphis Flyer, the alt-weekly newspaper I write for.

But you can't review a cookbook without making some of the recipes. Duh! Earlier this week, I made two of Bryant's favorites (both are located in the Top Six Good Eats section). This Cajun Creole Spiced Tempeh with Creamy Grits was out of this world good:

The dish is Bryant's take on traditional shrimp 'n' grits, a staple in the Deep South. The spiciness of the tempeh contrasts well with the creamy corn grits. And on the side, I cooked up his Citrus Collards Raisin Redux:

I didn't know it was possible to cook greens for a minimum amount of time and still manage to mask the bitterness. Down South, we typically cook our greens to death — at least an hour. They lose their bright green color, but they taste amazing. However, Bryant's method only takes about 15 minutes and they taste like heaven.

I'll be reviewing the book for the newspaper soon, so I'll post a link at that time. Until then, I'll be testing a few more of Bryant's dishes.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Beans 'n' Cornbread

It don't get no more Southern that a big ol' bowl of beans and cornbread (and yes, I meant to use a double negative and an improper contraction). On Monday night, I hit up my pantry for a Navy and Black Bean Soup Mix:

It was one of those mixes with a seasoning packet and a mini package of pasta and sun-dried tomatoes to mix in at the end of cooking time. It'd been in the pantry forever, so I finally decided to toss it into the soup pot.

And everybody know you can't have beans without cornbread. That would be insane! So I took this opportunity to work on my Jalepeno Cornbread recipe for the cookbook:

My original cornbread contained flax seed in place of eggs and it always seemed too gummy. So I made this batch without the seeds and it worked great! It still needs some kind of binder cause it got little crumbly. But I'm working on it!