Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Garden of Awesome

It's been far too long since I used my beloved Sarah Kramer cookbooks. The Garden of Vegan was actually my first vegan cookbook. I wrote an email to the publishing company requesting a catalog of their books because I'd seen one at work. In the email, I mentioned how excited I was to order The Garden of Vegan. And to my surprise, the whole book was in my mailbox a few weeks later — for free!

I wasn't even vegan then, just vegetarian. But I remember being quite inspired by the healthy recipes. Back then (somewhere around 2002), I was living on Ramen noodles, mac & cheese, and frozen pizzas. Fast forward to 2009. Flipping through my much-neglected, well-worn copy of Garden, I stumbled upon the recipe for Awesome Asian Noodle Salad:

Now, this isn't really the kind of dish that needs a recipe. But I probably wouldn't have thought it up on my own. Thanks to Sarah Kramer, it'll be going in my regular repertoire. I subbed flavored tempeh for the tofu in the recipe ... just because. The noodles are soba, and the mushrooms are baby bella. The sauce is a simple mix of rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, and fresh ginger.

A word on the tempeh: I used those new Lightlife Ginger Teriyaki Tempehtations — pre-cubed, flavored tempeh. It was tasty, but not really worth the $4 I paid for the teensy package (and that was on sale ... regular Whole Foods price was $5!). Next time, I'll marinate some plain tempeh and save a few bucks.

In case you didn't notice the Vegan Mofo banner to the right, I'm participating this year! Yea! It's my first year actually getting around to signing up. For those who don't know, Vegan Mofo stands for Vegan Month of Food. For the third October in a row, hundreds of vegan food bloggers are pledging to post as much as possible throughout the month.

I pledge to post every weekday in October (with the exception of Oct. 23-28 cause I'll be on vacation in New Orleans!). I typically post most weekdays anyway, so I don't think it'll be too much of a challenge. The real challenge will be keeping up with all the other Mofo-ers. For a full list or to sign up, go to Kittee's Cake Maker to the Stars blog.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Banana Brulee Oats

The lovely Miss Katie at Chocolate Covered Vegan has discovered the darndest thing! Microwaving a banana creates a big ole pile of creamy, caramelized banana-y goodness. She and other vegan bloggers have been enjoying this find stirred into wholesome oats. Katie's posted a ton of pictures of the variations on her Banana Brulee Oats. But mine was quite simple. I give you Banana Brulee Oats, Elvis-Style:

As a Memphian, I'm obliged to love the King's fave food combo — peanut butter and banana. Lucky for me, that love comes quite naturally. Especially when that peanut butter is White Chocolate Wonderful and the banana is caramelized. I also added some maple syrup to my steel cut oats for extra sweetness.

For the banana trick, simply microwave a broken-up banana with a tablespoon or so of water for about two minutes. It gets all melty and creamy. Plop it atop your oats and dress as desired.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tortilla Toss-Up

When I bought Vegan Brunch, I remember scanning past the recipe for Scrambled Tortillas and thinking, "That's kinda weird ... but intriguing." I made a mental note to try it out one day. I love me some corn tortillas, and they always come like a million to a package (what's up with that, anyway?). I had some leftover from another recipe last week, so it seemed time to try Isa's Scrambled Tortillas:

Basically, you take torn-up tortillas and fry 'em up with onions and jalepenos. Then you pour blended soft (not silken) tofu over the tortillas and mix it all up. The tofu cooks up and gets browned in places. Then you stir in some steamed potatoes, top it with a homemade Mexican-style tomato sauce, and guacamole. Yum! I also sprinkled mine with nooch, though the recipe doesn't call for it. One word of advice on this recipe: use hella more salt than it calls for! Other than that, it's a keeper. I'll certainly make this again.

On the side, I had some of my Creole Steamed Sausages:

I based this recipe off the famed Julie Hasson steamed sausages, but added my own spice combination for maximum spicy creole goodness. It's definitely going in the cookbook.

Thanks for all your awesome comments on the Dalai Lama post. I don't think I'll ever be able to top that post/moment. I feel totally blessed!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cookies on Toast (and the Dalai Lama)

Remember the speculoos spread craze from the PPK? A while back, everyone was raving about this spread made from European speculoos cookies. Lotus makes it, and they sell it in jars like peanut butter. But it's not available in Memphis, as far as I can tell. Thankfully, Mihl of Seitan Is My Motor developed her own recipe for making a similar spread at home using Speculoos or Biscoff cookies (or biscuits, as they say in Europe).

Up until a few weeks ago, I didn't think I could find those cookies around here either. But Poopie Bitch sent me an urgent text message alerting me that she'd found Biscoff (the American name for Speculoos biscuits) at both Kroger and Walgreens! I rushed to the nearest Walgreens and bought a pack for $2.50!

Then I came home and whipped up Mihl's Speculoos Spread. I've been enjoying it on whole wheat toast for breakfast everyday this week:

Imagine spreading buttery cookies all over toast. Sounds like heaven, right? This stuff is so amazing. I made a few changes to Mihl's recipe. She calls for one-fourth cup of coconut oil, but I only used 2 tablespoons (along with 4 tablespoons of water). Even though coconut oil is good fat, I couldn't bring myself to use that much since the cookies contain some fat too.

I enjoyed the toast with a couple slices of smoky Tempeh Bacon, a recipe from my cookbook:

Until yesterday, I was certain that speculoos spread was the highlight of my week. But a miraculous thing happened yesterday. The Dalai-freakin'-Lama touched my lip ring! Seriously.

He was in town to accept the International Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Since I work for the alt-weekly (the Memphis Flyer), I was allowed to sit in on a media Q&A with the Dalai Lama before the ceremony. As he was leaving the session, he stopped to shake hands with a few media folks who were reaching out to touch him.

I was sitting at the end of a row. As he started to walk past me, he suddenly stopped and looked at my lip stud. Then he lightly grabbed it, wiggled it, and laughed to himself. Then he walked on. It was so unexpected and really amazing. I feel blessed! Here's a picture of me and the Dalai Lama after he pulled his hand away. You can see how totally giddy I am:

Photo courtesy of Mark Ramirez

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Southern Fried Equinox

Happy Autumn! Today marks the first day of fall, and though I'm sad to see summer go, I'm growing more and more comfortable with the thought of warm hoodies, turning leaves, and pumpkins galore.

Apparently, my body is adjusting to the new season as well — I woke up with a sore throat, stuffy head, and lots of snot (ick!). At first, I was certain I was dying of the swine flu, but my mom reassured me that my lack of a fever was a good sign. I'm feeling a bit better now, but that may just be all the cold medicine.

Despite battling the sickies, I couldn't resist cooking a delicious meal to celebrate the Autumn Equinox (also known as Mabon, the traditional celebration of the second harvest). I whipped up this Southern Fried Tofu with Roasted Beets and Whipped Garlic Taters & Gravy:

The tofu is another recipe from my upcoming cookbook (fyi for those who've asked — there's no date set yet, but I'm aiming for some time in 2010). It's beer-battered and deep-friend, just the way tofu should be.

On the side, I whipped some boiled Yukon Gold potatoes and roasted garlic in the Kitchenaid. Then I topped them with Road's End Organics Golden Gravy.

The locally-grown beets were tossed with a little olive oil, salt, and maple syrup and roasted in a 400 degree oven for about 35 minutes. The perfect heavy meal to welcome autumn and say sayonara to summer.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Vegan Crunk Omni Test

A few weeks ago, my friends Shara and Jesse (both omnis) convinced me to plan and host a vegan dinner party so they could try some meatless eats. At first, I thought about making a menu from The Vegan Table. But I remembered the cardinal rule of dinner parties — never make a dish you haven't tried before. So I decided to go with what I know — my Cookin' Crunk tester recipes!

Here I am, hard at work in the kitchen:

I'm sporting my Christmas apron because my all-purpose cupcake apron was dirty. Here are my guests — Greg (the only vegetarian), Jesse, Shara, and Tyler (the omnis):

On the menu were Dijon-Pecan Seitan Medallions with Maple-Butter Glaze:

Jesse proclaimed that this tasted a lot like chicken. Score! It's always a plus when a non-vegan thinks vegan food tastes like meat.

We also had some of my Granny's Corn Casserole:

That white stuff is Tofutti cream cheese. This is one of my favorite side dishes of all time!

And we had hearty bowls of Country Potato Soup with Whole Wheat Biscuits for dippin':

And Jesse requested these Butterscotch Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream and Butterscotch Ganache for dessert:

Most of ya'll have seen these before, in my post from my best friend Sheridan's birthday in August. It's the basic Sexy Low-fat Vanilla Cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World with added butterscotch chips (which negates the low-fat part! oops!). I made the ganache the same way you'd make chocolate ganache, but with butterscotch.

Overall, I think the dinner party was a success. I doubt Shara, Jesse, or Tyler will convert to veganism any time soon, but at least I tried to lure them into our vegan cult (ahahahahaha ... that's my evil laugh).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I Would Do Anything for Love ... But I Won't Do That

My friend Greg and I went to a screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show a couple of weeks ago, and the appearance of Meatloaf as poor Eddie made me crave vegan loaf.

I had the vegan version of the classic retro loaf last Thursday night (yep, I'm a little behind on posting). The recipe for Diner Loaf came from The Healthy Hedonist by way of Amey's Gastronomus Maximus zine:

Oh my gawd, ya'll. This was the best vegan loaf I've ever tried! In the past, I've always made lentil loaves or hippie-like nut loaves. But this one was made with a base of Gimme Lean ground burger (the kind in the tube), tofu, oats, and walnuts. More meaty, for sure.

On the side, I had steamed kale and some local Corn with Garlic-Miso Dressing from Vegan Soul Kitchen:

I've blogged about this corn dressing before, but it's so tasty that I have to mention it again. Bryant Terry's miso-based spread is so much tastier and healthier than soy margarine. I doubt I'll ever butter my corn again when I have this option. This recipe alone is worth buying VSK for if you don't already own it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tofu Omelets, How Do I Love Thee?

Let me count the ways. I've shown many a Vegan Brunch and Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen tofu omelet on this blog before. Hands down, tofu omelets are my favorite breakfast. This week, I've been enjoying the Vegan Brunch omelet stuffed with Follow Your Heart mozzarella cheeze and served with a side of sprouted grain toast with homemade strawberry jam.

Simple, sure. But in days past, I've stuffed the same omelet with spicy sauteed mushrooms and spinach. This omelet, made several months ago, was by far my best effort yet:

Back in March, I had a little less luck with this Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen omelet — stuffed with Teese and mushrooms:

At the time I made this omelet, I was quite proud of it though. After all, it held together — mostly. And it was a vast improvement over my first tofu omelet in May 2008 (also from Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen):

Yep, that one was more like a tofu omelet scramble. But despite its shabby looks, it tasted like gold. When I made that omelet, I lacked a proper non-stick skillet — an essential tool in tofu omelet-makin.'

So far, I've only made these recipes four times. But I assure you this isn't the last time you'll see a folded "eggy" omelet of goodness on this blog.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Downhome Dough

I've always been a fan of fusion cuisine. When I was a little kid, I dreamed of opening up a Mexican-Chinese restaurant that would serve refried bean egg rolls and fried rice-stuffed burritos. That dream is long dead, but I'm still experimenting with mixing the cuisines of various cultures. Take for example, tonight's Veggie Lovers Cornbread Pizza:

This is another recipe for my cookbook. I actually developed it in August of last year. Here's the original post. But the measurements needed testing, and it tastes so good ... so it was high time to make it again.

The crust is made using my own recipe for cornbread, but it's halved to allow room for the toppins'. Of course, I baked it in my trusty cast iron pan. But it didn't finish cooking until well after dark, so excuse the bad flash shot:

Atop the crust is a homemade pizza sauce, some "beefy" flavored TVP crumbles, sauteed kale, squash, red pepper, and onion. The traditional sauce gives this recipe an Italian pizza-y taste, but the cornbread certainly makes it Southern tried and true.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fried Tofu Pockets of Goodness

I *heart* inari! Give me a buffet filled with sushi options, and I'll load my plate with far more inari than anything else. It's simply fried tofu skin stuffed with sushi rice, but it's so darn good topped with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. I found some frozen inari wrappers at an Asian market in Memphis recently, and last night they made the base of these yummy Inari:

I used brown rice instead of white sushi rice, and I seasoned it with a little rice vinegar, salt, and turbinado. The frozen inari skins came with a cute little packet of black sesame seeds and dried veggies for topping.

On the side, I whipped up a quick Sesame Green Bean Stir-fry:

I sauteed local green beans, a red bell pepper, and some thinly sliced carrot with a little sesame oil and soy sauce. Then I topped the saute with sesame seeds and a dash of sriracha. Quick and delicious.

Chocolate Pecan Madness!

Though most of the sections of my cookbook are pretty well fleshed out now, I'm still lacking in the dessert department. My awesome Granny has been hard at work veganizing her classic desserts for me, but I've been slacking in the sweets. For example, I realized last week that I didn't have any cookie recipes yet. Enter these Choco-Chocolate Chip Praline Cookies:

These are chocolate cookies flecked with chocolate chips and candied pecans. I developed a test batch last week and brought them to work. My co-workers devoured all 25 cookies in less than an hour, and based on their feedback, this recipe was a real winner.

My only complaint — I left the pecans whole, but next time I'll chop them instead. A few of the cookies didn't get any pecans in them, and I felt bad for the folks who missed out. The salty-sweet candied pecans were the best part of the cookie. Just look at that little pecan peekin' out:

Note to the testers: Speaking of cookbook recipes, I've posted a new tester recipe on the Cookin' Crunk tester blog.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sweet Tater Bread Sneak Peek

Several months ago, my awesome crunk cookbook testers tried out my recipe for Sweet Tater Bread. I jotted down their feedback, made some improvements, and finally got around to baking another loaf for breakfast this week. Look at the sexy pecans in that slice!

It was so tasty that I decided I really needed to share this recipe. Even though I don't divulge most of my cookbook recipes, I like to put a few out there as a sort of sneak peek. Not to brag, but this bread is really tasty. I'm proud of it, and I want to share. So I'm giving out the recipe at the end of this post. Here's a whole loaf shot:

Each morning, I've been eating a slice or two schmeared with the Rich Tofu Cream Cheeze from The Uncheese Cookbook:

Although Joanne Stepaniak's tofu cream cheese recipe is no Tofutti, it's a heck of a lot cheaper. The bread doesn't really need any extra spreads, but I always schmear some kind of vegan cream cheeze or jam on my sweet breads.

As promised, here's the recipe .....

Sweet Potato Bread

2 medium sweet potatoes (to make 1 1/2 cups mashed, cooked sweet potato)

1 cup pecans, broken into small pieces

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1 very ripe banana

1/4 cup canola or safflower oil

1/4 cup soymilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel and cube sweet potatoes. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add potatoes. Cook about 20 minutes or until very soft. Drain water and mash with a fork or potato masher. Measure out 1 1/2 cups and discard any leftovers (or save for use in another dish). Set aside.

While potatoes are boiling, toast pecans in a dry pan in the oven for eight minutes. Set aside.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mash banana and sweet potatoes together. Add oil and soymilk to potato mixture and combine.

Add potato mixture to dry ingredients and stir until well combined. Fold in pecans. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I Love You, Vegan Yum Yum!

I assume most vegan foodies have "to-make wish lists" a mile long. To give you an idea of how ridiculously back-logged I am, I just now made Vegan Yum Yum's Tomato Basil Cream Pasta ... though Lauren posted it in August of 2008!

I'm insane for waiting so long. This dish came together in less than 20 minutes and it's crazy, crazy good. The best part? The recipe is conveniently available on Vegan Yum Yum's FREE iPhone app! But if you don't have an iPhone, the whole thing (with gorgeous step-by-step pictures) is on Vegan Yum Yum's blog.

The sauce gets its creaminess from blended raw cashews (no soymilk!) and a large, fresh ripe summer tomato. If you haven't tried this yet, make it while the tomatoes are still tasty! There are only a few weeks of tomato time left in the South and I'd imagine it's the same in other areas as well. Ah, how I'll miss juicy summer tomatoes...

Labor Day Eats

I'm not really sure why Americans celebrate Labor Day, but I'm glad we do. It means I get a day off work, and that means more time for playing with food. I spent Labor Day in Jonesboro, Arkansas, my hometown located about an hour from Memphis.

My mom made the most delicious calzones for dinner! Here's my Vegan Chicken and Ham Calzone:

Mama used meat in she and my dad's calzones, but mine contained Morningstar Farms Chicken Strips, Lightlife "ham" slices, Follow Your Heart Mozzarella, and a little pizza sauce. So, so good!

On the side, she made green bean bundles wrapped in bacon. But for mine, we left the bacon off and sprinkled them with bacon bits:

And we had some tasty Greek Salad with local tomatoes and a homemade vinaigrette:

After dinner, I drove over to my grandparents' house so Granny could teach me how to can green beans. I'd been wanting to learn for awhile. Here she is prepping the beans for canning:

After boiling for a few minutes, Granny ladled the beans into Mason jars:

Then we sealed the jars and placed them in a pressure cooker for about 20 minutes. Here's the lovely result:

Now I'll have plenty of beans to get me through the winter!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Homemade Steam Buns!

About a month ago, I stumbled onto an old copy of Sunset Vegetarian Cooking, a thin paperback volume of retro-ish meat-free recipes. It's from 1981, and the photos have that awesome reddish-yellow old-school tint. Though it's not all vegan, most of the lacto-ovo recipes are veganizable. And it was only $1 at the Goodwill!

When I was in the thrift store, flipping through the pages, a mouth-watering photo of some Cashew-Mushroom Steam Buns caught my eye. I always buy the frozen cabbage, mushroom, or red bean-stuffed buns at the Asian market. But they're made with nasty white flour. This recipe called for whole wheat (I would have subbed it anyway!).

Though it took FOREVER to make these last night, I wound up with 12 cute little steamed buns:

Steaming gives the dough a light, airiness that really melts in your mouth. And the filling is better than any I've had in a storebought bun. It's made from raw cashews, mushrooms, ginger, bamboo shoots, soy sauce, onion, and white wine. Here's an inside shot, though I swear it tastes better than it looks:

I wanted to give out the recipe since it's such an old cookbook, but I did a quick search and found that Sunset Vegetarian Cooking is still available on Amazon. Basically though, you make a yeasted dough and let it rise for an hour. Then you divide it into 12 balls. Roll those balls into small rounds and stuff with cashew-mushroom filling. Fold up the sides, twist the tops, and let rise another 30 minutes. Then you just steam them in a steamer basket for 15 minutes. They re-steam from the fridge or freeze wonderfully!

On the side, I made the Savory Greens Stir-fry from the Whole Foods iPhone app:

I'm always looking for new ways to cook kale, and this didn't disappoint with water chesnuts, shitake mushrooms, onion, garlic, diced tomatoes, and splashes of shoyu and mirin.

This was my first time cooking a recipe from an iPhone app, and it was very convenient. The ingredients were easy to pull up while grocery shopping, and I was able to read through the recipe at the gym, so I knew what to do as soon as I got home to work on dinner.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bake It Again

It seems like over a year ago that I first developed the Twice Baked Tater recipe for my cookbook. But for some reason, I'm just now getting around to testing it for the second time.

After trying the taters again on Monday, I'm not sure why I waited so long. This one's a real winner. I'm proud of it. Last time, I topped the taters with vegan cheeze, but I opted to try these guys without it this time since faux cheeze is always an optional ingredient in my recipes. Some folks just don't like it, and others can't afford it or don't have access. These twice-baked potatoes were just fine without the cheeze, though it does look pretty when it gets all melty on top.

For protein, I tried these cute little Satay Chicken-Style Veaty Bites:

They're little meat-like chunks of soy protein on a stick. I found them in the freezer section of the Winchester Farmers Market (a gigantuan Asian/Mexican market in Memphis).

I'd never had Veat before, but these were very tasty. They had just the right amount of chewiness without too much of a meaty mouthfeel (I love that word!). I dipped them in extra vegan satay sauce that I picked at the same market. Quick, delicious, convenient! Since the bites come three to a stick, they'd be perfect for entertaining.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Raw Without Hunger

For the first time ever, I made it through an entire raw day without suffering from crazy hunger every three hours! I began my morning with a simple glass of Beautifying Pumpkin Mylk from Ani's Raw Food Kitchen:

Just pumpkin seeds, vanilla bean, dates, and water! Ani says the mylk is great for your skin since pumpkin seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids. Lately, I've been sticking to simple liquid breakfasts on raw day. And I'm usually starving an hour after I get to work, so I bring plenty of snacks to eat at my desk. However, after drinking the mylk today, I was satisfied until around 11:30 a.m.

I nibbled on these Carrots and Raw Vegan Pesto as a pre-lunch snack, even though I could have made it to lunch without them:

For lunch (around 12:30 p.m.), I ate this gigantic Garden Salad with Raw Ranch and Sesame Sunflower Seed Bread Croutons:

The ranch is Shellyfish's recipe, which you can find here. I've tried several recipes for raw ranch, and I think Shellyfish's is the best so far. Even though I was full about mid-way through the salad, I ate almost every bite because the dressing was that good. The croutons were crumbled from leftover slices of the Sesame Sunflower Bread from Ani's Raw Kitchen that I'd made several months ago. They keep forever in the fridge!

On most raw days, a similarly-sized salad would fill me up for about two hours and then I'd be munching on more veggies, fruits, or a Larabar. But I really didn't get hungry again until after leaving the office. I did, however, make room for a few locally-grown grapes because I brought them to work, and dammit, I was gonna eat them.

Around 6 p.m., I had dinner — Zucchini Fettucine with Guacamole — though I wasn't famished as usual:

I know my guac looks a little funky. I cut out a lot of bad spots and ended up with less avocado than other ingredients, resulting in a more liquid-y guac. It was still very delicious. I got the idea of topping raw noodles with guac from Eat 'n Veg'n.

Of course, I ended my day with a big ole bowl of Raw Banana Soft Serve with Chopped Pecans and a little light reading from Emma Goldman:

In case you don't know the wonders of banana soft serve, hit up Gena's Choosing Raw for details. I'm convinced it's the best thing to happen to raw cuisine ... ever.