Monday, November 30, 2009

My 5th Vegan-iversary

Black Friday isn't just some crazy excuse for mass consumurism. It's also my vegan-iversary! It all started in 1994. I ate turkey on Thanksgiving Day and something just didn't set right in my 14-year-old mind. I'd already gone "semi-vegetarian" by then (eating only poultry and an occasional piece of fried catfish ... never cared for seafood even when I ate meat), and seeing that giant turkey carcass on the kitchen counter really grossed me out that year. So I went vegetarian on Black Friday in 1994.

Fast forward to 2004. In celebration of having 10 years as a vegetarian, I decided to try veganism on the day after Thanksgiving. It was really just a month trial run ... to see if I could do it. Thirty days later in late December 2004, I realized how easy being vegan could be. So I made the decision to be vegan forever.

This year, Black Friday marked my 5th vegan and my 15th vegetarian anniversary! Since my mom and I have started a new tradition (as of last year) of doing our holiday shopping on Black Friday (because we're crazy enough to fight the crowds for a good deal!), I've also began a new tradition of dining with her at my favorite Memphis breakfast joint for a vegan-iversary brunch.

Here I am at Brother Juniper's, about to stuff my face with the most delicious tofu scramble:

And here's a shot of my vegan-iversary brunch plate — the "Fahim's Special" at Brother Juniper's:

Fahim's Special is a crazy-good tofu scramble made with a balsamic vinaigrette, kalamata olives, portabella mushrooms, and other veggies. It's served with tasty garlic home fries and whole wheat toast with all-natural strawberry fruit spread! I couldn't ask for a better post-Thanksgiving, vegan-iversary, Black Friday brunch!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Redux

Ya'll know I love food ... more than one probably should. But on most days, I carefully watch what I eat. I count calories. I work out. I plan meals by the week, all to ensure that my love of food doesn't turn into a full-on food addiction. But Thanksgiving is one of the few days of the year when gorging oneself is not only accepted ... it's encouraged. So every year on the last Thursday of Novemver, I stuff myself until I can't breathe. Here's a shot of my first plate at my family's Thanksgiving dinner this year:

Top (left to right): Vegan Mac & Cheeze, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans, Corn, Vegan Cream Cheeze Mashed Potatoes. Bottom (left to right): Greens & Turnips, Mama's Best-Ever Vegan Cornbread Dressin', Homemade Cranberry Sauce, Slices of Field Roast Celebration Roast, and Marinated Slaw.

Except for the turkey, my mom and Granny make everything vegan. I get my own casserole dish filled with my mom's famous vegan dressin, and my mom uses Earth Balance in all the sides. She even used Tofutti sour cream and cream cheeze in the mashed potatoes, and none of the omnis could tell a difference. I made a small pot of vegan mac & cheeze, so I could eat it while everyone else ate baked mac & cheddar cheese casserole.

I used to cook a Tofurkey, but for the past several years, I've been baking a Field Roast Celebration Roast instead:

I like the texture and taste of the Field Roast better, and it's smaller so that means less leftovers. Nothing against leftovers, of course. I've been eating Thanksgiving plates all weekend! But Tofurkeys are so big that I'd have more leftovers than I could eat in a week.

My second plate was filled with one slice of all three of these delicious vegan pies. Granny brought a Vegan Pineapple Marshmallow Cream Pie:

She used Soy Whip, Dandies vegan marshmallows, and crushed pineapple in a graham cracker crust! I'm definitely stealing this recipe from her for my cookbook.

She also brought over one of her famous Old-Fashioned Coconut Pies, another recipe she developed for my cookbook. This is my favorite pie in the whole world ... ever:

And I made a Smlove Pie from the Veganomicon:

I've made this recipe several times before, and this rich chocolate tofu pie with peanut butter caramel, candied pecans, and chocolate ganache is always a crowd pleaser.

Though I thoroughly enjoyed the gluttony of Thanksgiving Day (and the days of leftover gorging that followed), I'm ready to get back into my old healthy-eating habits.

Hey testers! I FINALLY posted another recipe on the tester site — my Choco-Choco Praline Pecan Cookies. Check it out when you get a chance!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Tofurkey Day!

Hey guys! Just wanted to make a quick post to wish all of ya'll a Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your Tofurkeys and Field Roasts. Stuff your bellies with cornbread dressin' (if you're from down here) or stuffing (for those up north). And whatever you do, eat lots and lots of delicious vegan pie.

I'll leave ya'll with this photo of a new cookbook creation — Vanilla Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Pie Buttercream:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thai Meets Indian

Several weeks ago, I received a bundle of books to review from the Book Publishing Company in Summertown, Tennessee (an awesome publisher of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks). One of those books was Buddha's Table: Thai Feasting Vegetarian Style by Chat Mingkwan.

Chat's book features all sorts of classic Thai dishes sans the meat or fish sauce. Some are things I've never heard of like Pandan Sweet Jelly or Galangal Coconut Soup. Others are more common in Americanized Thai cuisine, like stir-fries, hot 'n' sour lemongrass soup, cucumber salad, and lots of curries.

The first recipe I chose to try was the Yellow Curry, a coconut curry influenced by traditional Indian fare:

Though you can't really tell from this picture, the curry contains soft white potatoes, kobocha squash, red bell pepper, coconut milk, and cubes of frozen (and then thawed) tofu. The recipe didn't actually call for tofu, but I need my protein ... and tofu is delicious in a curry. It did call for taro, but I couldn't find any at my neighborhood Asian market.

Also, the dish called for both coconut milk and coconut cream. However, the only thing resembling coconut cream I could find was Cream of Coconut ... and seeing as how that contains a ton of sugar, I knew that wasn't right. So I subbed the rest of my MimicCreme (a delicious vegan alternative to heavy cream) instead. The result was delicious, and the non-coconut flavored heavy cream didn't take away from the rich flavor of the coconut milk.

Expect more tasty dishes from Buddha's Table in the very near future! Some of the recipes call for really strange, new (at least to me) ingredients like lily buds and lotus seeds, and I'm anxious to seek those things out at Asian markets around town.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunny Side Up!

I used to love fried eggs, and just before going vegan in 2004, I was starting to enjoy them prepared sunny side up. Before I'd always preferred the yolk cooked all the way through. So you can imagine my excitement when a blog reader named Rocky (who runs this Shepheard Illustration art website) mailed me his vegan Sunny Side Up Tofu Egg recipe.

The recipe involves carving tofu into a fried-egg shape, and I didn't do the best job there, but I assure my ugly little fried tofu "egg" was delicious:

Isn't it cute? The yolk, a gelantinous substance made with carrot juice and arrowroot (though I used cornstarch), was delicious mushed up with the pan-fried tofu. After shooting this photo, I used my fork to mix the yolk with the "egg," just like people do with real eggs. And I seasoned it liberally with black salt for an eggy taste.

Rocky gave me permission to post his recipe (with what he says is an improved yolk recipe from the one he sent me several weeks ago). So here goes.

Rocky's Sunny Side Up Tofu "Egg"
Cut tofu (I used one pound of firm tofu to make three thick tofu eggs) into the shape of a fried egg, thin at the periphery and thick in the middle. Insert broad bladed knife horizontally through the tofu near the bottom. Where the yolk should be, cookie-cut out a yolk hole with a shot glass all the way down to the blade. Remove blade. Fry in vegan margarine-both sides until golden brown. Set aside.

Now make yolk:
(note: lt stands for what looks to be larger than a tablespoon but looks like a tablespoon. Not sure what it's called).

2 large tablespoons (lt) flax seed oil
1 lt melted vegan margarine
1/2 lt arrowroot (more later) dissolved in teaspoon hot water
1/4 lt carrot juice
1/4 lt vegan mayo
some salt, pepper and garlic salt

Mix well, microwave 25 seconds.

Add 1/4 more arrowroot to 1 lt hot water.
Stir in to prior mix.

Stir well until very thick so it doesn't run way too fast.

Add to egg hole and spread liberally over top of tofu.

Put in microwave another 10 - 15 sec.

Pepper and salt again.

Serve hot. Dip egg with toast if you like.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Know Your Roots

Long, long ago back in May 2008, I blogged about a new creation for my cookbook — Seitan Root Veggie Pot Pie:

It was everything I love — hearty winter root veggies and tender morsels of "chicken-ish" seitan — stuffed between two flaky whole wheat crusts. The perfect comfort food.

But that original recipe needed a few improvements, namely I'd made way too much filling for one pie. In in an effort to perfect the measurements in the recipe, I finally tried it again last night. The result was a perfect pie, filled with just right amount of sweet potatoes, white potatoes, turnips, carrots, and seitan.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Veganizing Better Homes & Gardens

A few weeks ago, I picked up a very retro-looking copy of Better Homes & Gardens Meatless Main Dishes from the Kitchen Witch new and used bookstore in New Orleans. Though it's a vegetarian cookbook, it was printed in 1981 and almost every recipe is LOADED with dairy or eggs. I purchased the book for the challenge of veganizing a few of the recipes.

I chose to start with this Mediterranean Stroganoff:

A rich, cream sauce with fresh broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and olives tops healthy quinoa pasta. Of course the recipe didn't call for quinoa pasta, but that's what I had on hand ... so that's what I used. Probably healthier that way anyway. Honestly though, the recipe tastes perfectly sinful. I used a ton of vegan dairy substitutes, including my new favorite thing — MimicCreme! I picked up several cartons at a health food co-op in Jackson, Mississippi (about 3 hours south of Memphis) since it isn't sold here.

I don't typically share recipes from other people's cookbooks, but I heavily adapted this one. It called for heavy cream, sour cream, ricotta cheese, and parmesan. So, um, I made some serious changes. I'll share this one, and hopefully, Better Homes & Gardens won't hate me.

Veganized Mediterranean Stroganoff
(adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Meatless Main Dishes)

2 cups cauliflower, chopped
2 cups broccoli, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 Tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
3 cups button mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups MimicCreme Non-Dairy Cream Substitute or soymilk
1 vegetable bouillon cube, crumbled
1/3 cup sliced black olives
1/2 pound firm tofu, drained
3/4 cup Tofutti sour cream
1/4 cup vegan parmesan cheese
12 ounces quinoa pasta (or other pasta)

Steam the cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots in a steamer basket until tender. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

In another saucepan, melt the margarine. Add onions and saute 2 to 3 minutes or until soft. Add sliced mushrooms and cook for about 7 minutes or until the mushrooms shrink down a bit. Add garlic and saute one more minute.

Quickly stir in flour and then add MimicCreme or soymilk. Crumble in bouillon cube. Stir until thick and bubbly. Carefully fold in steamed vegetables and black olives. Turn off heat.

In a separate bowl, mush tofu with your hands for about three minutes or until it achieves a ricotta-like consistency. Add sour cream and vegan parm and stir to combine. Slowly add the tofu ricotta/sour cream mixture to the cream sauce in the saucepan. Return to a low heat and cook several minutes or until heated through, but not boiling. Serve over hot pasta.


In other news, the awesome Zel Allen (author of Nut Gourmet) has posted the recipe for Nutty Oatcakes (which I posted about on Monday night) on her blog. Check it out here!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Adopt a Turkey, Don't Eat One

Okay, so I totally ripped off that blog title from Veg Out with Us. But that's where I got the inspiration today to start a new Thanksgiving tradition — adopting a turkey from the Farm Sanctuary.

Meet Gideon — the turkey I chose to sponsor for a $25 donation to Farm Sanctuary:

There were several turkeys to choose from, but Gideon's little red skin flap was too cute to resist. The donation money will help Gideon and his turkey buds live peacefully at Farm Sanctuary's locations in California and New York.

Since 1986, Farm Sanctuary has rescued more than 1,000 turkeys, placing them into loving homes. They also educate folks about the plight of commercially-raised, factory-farmed turkeys and provide recipes for meat-free Thanksgiving dinners.

I've been meaning to start a turkey adoption tradition for years. But I finally hopped over to the Farm Sanctuary's website today and made a donation after reading this post on Veg Out with Us. I gave up meat in 1994 on the day after Thanksgiving, and 10 years later, I liberated myself from dairy and eggs on the day after Thanksgiving. Adopting a turkey every year seems like a fitting tradition.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nutty Oatcakes

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to receive a box of three cookbooks to review from the Book Publishing Company in Summertown, Tennessee. The regionally-run book company produces loads of popular vegan titles by such esteemed vegan chefs as Joanne Stepaniak and Louise Hagler.

The review package included The Nut Gourmet by Zel Allen, a vegan cookbook filled with recipes involving — you guessed it — nuts! After thumbing through the cookbook, I settled on Nutty Oatcakes for my first review recipe:

These are flaky breakfast flatbreads made from rolled oats and ground walnuts. They were wholesome and absolutely delicious spread with Apricot Cashew Butter, another Nut Gourmet recipe:

Okay, full disclosure: I subbed dried peaches for the apricots in the recipe so it's technically Peach Cashew Butter. For some crazy reason, my Kroger doesn't carry dried apricots, though they sell every other dried fruit on the planet. I figure peaches and apricots are pretty similar though.

Anyway, this homemade cashew butter is totally fruit-sweetened ... no white sugar or artificial sweetener here. It's a little different from the cashew butter I buy at the store, but mostly because I'm not used to sweet nut butters. This would also be delicious spread on some whole wheat toast.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pre-Thanksgiving Party!

Because one day of gluttony just isn't enough, our local vegetarian group Food Awareness held a pre-Thanksgiving party to help gear up our tummies for the big day. About 45 folks — some vegetarians, some vegans, some omnis — packed into fellow member Vaughan's house for a Saturday night filled with delicious vegan food, wine, and a random late-night poetry slam. Here's a picture of the folks still hanging on at the end of the party:

Left to right: (Top) Vaughan, Barbara, Michael (Bottom) April, Me, Greg, and a nice German girl named Lena ...

Here's my first plate, loaded with savory goodies:

There's Carol's AMAZING vegan mac & cheeze, my cornbread dressin', a roasted sweet potato, Vaughan's super-spicy kale, some pineapple rice, lentils, and almond quinoa.

I made my mom's veganized recipe for Cornbread Dressin'. It's not the sexiest-looking dish, but it's very, very tasty. My mom's will ALWAYS taste the best, but I think I came pretty close this time. It seems to get better and better every time I make it. Practice makes perfect, I guess.

Barbara made some yummy Edammame Dip for pre-dinner snackin':

And we had tons of dessert! I took a photo of my dessert plate — loaded with pies, cake, cookies, you name it. But it didn't turn out so well. Here's a sample of what went on it though ... like this delicious Vegan Sweet Potato (or maybe it was pumpkin?...I can't tell the two apart!) Pie:

Or Stephanie's (Poopie Bitch) Bourbon Pumpkin Pecan Pie (just look at her fancy embellishments!):

And Stephanie's (yes, she totally outdid herself with TWO beautiful pies) old-school Apple Pie:

We even had a raw Sweet Potato Pie, courtesy of our raw friend Judith:

By the end of the night, I was miserably stuffed ... just how one should feel after gorging on an amazing vegan Thanksgiving smorgasboard. Now I just hope I still have room left when the real Thanksgiving comes...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Food Is Better In a Bowl

There's something totally satisfying about a big ole bowl of whole grains, veggies, and a healthy protein. The combinations are endless — beans/broccoli/rice or tempeh/squash/millet ... you get the idea. I think I've found my favorite healthy bowl combo with this Monk Bowl from 30 Minute Vegan:

It's simply quinoa, baked tofu, and steamed broccoli, carrots, and zucchini. All that goodness is layered in a bowl and topped with soy sauce (I used Maggie seasoning), nutritional yeast, and flax oil. Oh, and I added a few spicy squirts of sriracha for good measure.

Then I mixed it all together and enjoyed bite after bite ... until it was all gone and I was wishing for more. The tofu was probably the highlight. It's Furama Savory Baked Tofu, which I buy at my neighborhood Asian market. It has a hint of five-spice powder flavor, and it's the firmest tofu I've ever eaten. I baked it again after marinating in some soy sauce for a few minutes. Delish!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Treat Time!

When I say "Datsun, want a treat-treat?," my big ole' puppy always comes running. Even if he's been a in a dead sleep. So I knew when I got a copy of The Simple Little Vegan Dog Book by Michelle Rivera that I'd absolutely have to try my hand at making homemade dog biscuits.

These Yeasted Gourmet Dog Treats were a huge hit with Datsun. See ...

He really wants me to stop taking pictures and give him the damn treat. I took at least ten of these photos, and his patience was wearing thin. When he finally got a chance to gobble down the biscuit, he looked up at me as if to say, "Can I have seconds?" I made him bones, flowers, and cute little pumpkins using cookie cutters:

The recipe is really basic — flour, yeast, veggie broth (I used water because I couldn't find unsalted broth), and soymilk. The yeast gives them a bit of rise, but the treats sit in the oven overnight (with the heat turned off, of course) to get crunchy.

In fact, they were still waiting in the oven when I arrived home from work tonight. I'd forgotten all about them and set the oven to pre-heat for 30 minutes or so to bake some tofu. Then I noticed the aroma of something baking even though I'd thought the oven was empty. Oops! Luckily, the extra cooking time just made the biscuits crunchier ... and Datsun seemed to like that even more.

By the way, the Vegan Dog Book is published through the Book Publishing Company out of Summertown, Tennessee.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Holy Mole Chili!

I tend to get stuck in a chili rut ... always opting for the traditional version with chili powder and a tomato base. Nothing against plain ole chili, but when I saw the recipe for Emo Potato's Mole Black Bean & Winter Squash Chili, I was totally blown away:

This thick stew has a base of soaked and blended dried pasilla chilis mixed with cocoa powder, almond butter, tahini, and even brewed coffee! It sounds crazy, but all that stuff mixed together makes for one hell of a mole sauce. Check out the recipe at Emo Potato's blog.

The mole is simmered with a cubed Delicata squash (any winter squash would do) and black beans. Of course I topped mine with a glob of Tofutti sour cream and (not shown here) gads of hot sauce. And I alternated bites with Garden of Eatin' blue corn tortilla chips.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Eggless Frittata

When Vegan Brunch first came out out, every blogger and their mom made the Swiss Chard Frittata. But for some reason, it kept getting pushed down my to-make list, always losing out to the VB tofu omelet or tofu benedict. Well, I finally got around to making that frittata for this week's breakfast:

I'm not sure what I was waiting for! It only has a few simple ingredients and it includes super-healthy greens for a morning power boost. I've made a number of vegan frittatas in my day from various cookbooks, but this one has the most authentic texture and taste. I bet you could even fool an omni with this recipe.

This morning, I served myself a generous slice of frittata, a piece of whole grain toast slathered in Earth Balance and raspberry fruit spread, and a glass of iced green tea. Thankfully, the recipe made four servings so I'll be enjoying the same breakfast for three more days!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Vegan Dog Food

Meet Datsun, my loveable, energetic 80-pound mutt:

He's not vegan. He typically eats Pet's Promise Daily Health kibble, which is made without any animal by-products. All the information I've read leads me to believe that dogs can lead a healthy life as a vegan since they're natural omnivores (like humans). But honestly, vegan dog food is expensive. Considering that I also have six kitties to feed, packaged vegan dog food isn't really an option. Plus, I get nervous about messing with Datsun's nutrient intake ... even if it is completely safe to feed him a vegan diet.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was contacted by the Book Publishing Company (the publisher of many great vegan titles, like The Uncheese Cookbook, Tofu Cookery, the New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook and more). They asked me to review a few of their titles, one of which was The Simple Little Vegan Dog Book by Michelle A. Rivera:

This cute little volume is loaded with information on what dogs can and cannot eat (no to onions and chocolate, yes to brown rice and pumpkin). And it's filled with recipes for creating delicious home-cooked vegan meals, treats, and special occasion cakes for your pooch.

I've decided that, rather than switch Datsun to a totally vegan diet, I'll feed him his Pet's Promise kibble in the mornings and a home-cooked vegan meal every evening. The recipes in Rivera's book make large quantities (and I'm even doubling those cause Datsun's a big guy), so you can freeze individual portions for quick weeknight meals.

So far, we've only tried one recipe — Snoopy's Great Pumpkin, Rice, and Beans:

It's simply canned pumpkin blended with red beans and brown rice. Since dogs don't need salt, it has no added seasoning. But I sampled the dish before passing it on to Datsun and it was pretty darn tasty. As you can see, Datsun agreed:

He licked his bowl clean and then begged for more. Even the cats (who are definitely not vegan) were totally jealous. They inspected his bowl after he finished eating, hoping for a crumb or two.

I'll be posting dog food dishes that I try from the book pretty regularly. Next on the agenda is a big batch of dog biscuits. Datsun and I will let you know how that goes.

Update: So one of my very observant commenters (thanks Susan!) noticed that my link to the Pet's Promise website pulls up a letter from the company stating that their products will no longer be available after January. Suck! Since I'd like to feed Datsun kibble at least once a day to supplement his vegan meals, anyone got any suggestions on a good natural dog food that doesn't cost a million bucks? And preferably is available at Whole Foods?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Get Stuffed!

When I was a kid, I loved my mom's stuffed bell peppers. She'd quarter a pepper, boil it, and top each quarter with a rice/beef/cheese combo. When I went vegetarian at age 14, she started making mine with rice and cheese only. It's been years since I've eaten that, and I don't even know if my mom makes that dish anymore. But I decided to re-create a vegan version for my cookbook — "Beefy" Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers:

I steamed the peppers, stuffed 'em with a mixture of quinoa, TVP, and tomatoes, and then roasted the whole thing in the oven for awhile. Dare I say it, but I think they're as good as my mom's were ... just a little different. I tried some without vegan cheeze (like the one above) and some with mozzarella Teese. In my recipe, cheeze will be optional. These were also tasty with a sprinkle of nooch.

On the side, I tried Happy Herbivore's African Kale & Yams Mash from Pudge-Free Holidays:

I've been eyeing this recipe since I bought Lindsay's e-cookbook last holiday season. It's a spicy mashed yam (mine were actually sweet potatoes because I've never even seen a real yam down here) mixed with pureed, seasoned kale. Topped with hot sauce, this was a delectable (and super-healthy) side dish.

By the way, the awesome Jessy of Happy Vegan Face found the recipe online for the Live Un-Stirfry with Cauliflower Rice recipe that I posted about on Tuesday. Here's the link, but ya'll still outta buy 30 Minute Vegan because it's amazing! Also, check out Chocolate Covered Katie's charity page drive — Operation Chocolate-Covered Kindness. When you view her page, she'll receive money from FoodBuzz, and she's sending all the money to The Enough Project (a group working to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Raw Food: The Good and the Bleh

It's raw food day again! This time, my uncooked meals ranged from "so-so" to "over-the-top amazing." I'll start with the "so-so." I began today's monthly one-day raw food cleanse with this Galactic Green Smoothie from 30 Minute Vegan:

Dates, fresh apple juice, banana, papaya, and kale — sounds like a great combo, huh? Well, only if you like papaya, which I apparently do not. When I cut into the papaya last night, it smelled like butt and it tasted icky. I vaguely remember trying papaya before and not liking it. But at the time, I assumed I'd gotten a bad one. Guess I just don't like it. But I drank this smoothie down anyway ... can't let those greens go to waste.

Around 11 a.m., I snacked on some carrot sticks, bell pepper strips, and cauliflower at my desk. And then at noon, I gorged on this Giant Garden Salad with Brazil Nut Cheese:

The salad — romaine, radishes, fresh corn, tomato, cucumber, and cauliflower — was just a salad. But this nut cheese was really something special. It's made by Journey to Bliss, a local raw food company in Smryna, Tennessee. They sell their products — delicious nut cheeses and raw desserts — at Whole Foods stores in Memphis, Nashville, and a few other regional locales.

Ya'll, this is definitely THE best raw cheese I've ever had. It's flecked with onion and garlic, and the taste reminds me of that French onion dip in the plastic tub that I loved as a kid. It wasn't cheap at $12.99 a package, and I was hesitant to shell out the big bucks for it. But it is soooo worth it. I'll be buying this again.

Dinner was equally amazing! I made this Live Un-Stirfry with Cauliflower Rice and Spicy Cashews from 30 Minute Vegan:

The authors of 30 Minute Vegan — Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray — sponsored a recipe contest last year, and this un-stirfry was the winner. Its creator, Felix Schoener of Germany, won a trip to Kaua'i, Hawaii for his winning contribution.

Spicy sesame-flavored naba cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, and shitake mushrooms rest atop a fluffy bed of garlicky cauliflower "rice." The dish is sprinkled with a few raw sesame-chili cashews. Wow! I know I always say "this was the best dish ever!" But um, this may have been the best dish ever. This recipe prep took me far longer than the 30 minutes advertised in the book's title, but it was worth every minute.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mornin' Fruit Bowl

For some reason, when I get new cookbooks, I always make the ridiculously easy recipes first. You know, the recipes that are so simple, you kinda wonder why you even need a recipe. Even though those sorts of easy meals are common sense, I'm always intrigued by simple recipe ideas that I couldn't have thought up on my own. Take for example, this Walnut Fruit Bowl from 30 Minute Vegan:

It's just mango, banana, a few frozen blackberries, walnuts, and soymilk. That's it. The recipe actually called for fresh figs, but I subbed blackberries when I couldn't find any figs. The thing is, I would never think to throw fruit in a bowl with milk unless that bowl also contained cereal. But this bowl was pretty filling without carbs. And I felt super-healthy starting my day with lots of fruit, a food group I don't really eat from often enough.

The book, 30 Minute Vegan, was a birthday gift from my boyfriend. It's by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray (also the authors of the awesome full-color book Vegan Fusion). Though most of the meals — like this fruit bowl — take far less than 30 minutes, a few are more complicated and take longer than a half hour to prepare. The book features a great mix of healthy cooked and raw meals, which is perfect for an occasional raw foodie like me. In fact, I'm making another recipe from the book for Raw Food Day tomorrow. But you'll have to wait and see what it is...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Samhain Stew

Sometimes recipes are so tasty that you feel inclined to save them for special occasions ... perhaps to only make them once a year so you'll savor every delicious bite when the time finally rolls around to make the dish again.

That's the case with this Smoky South American Seitan Stew from Grub: Ideas for the Urban Organic Kitchen:

I only make this stew once a year — around Samhain-time (a.k.a. Halloween). Traditionally, Samhain is the night when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead are the thinnest. So I make this stew and eat it while I think about my dead friends and family. Sounds morbid, I guess. But I feel like it's a fitting way for a foodie to honor their memories.

The tomato and chipotle pepper based stew is loaded with chunks of tender seitan, cubed potatoes, and fried plantains. The recipe comes from Memphis native and vegan soul chef Bryant Terry's first cookbook, Grub. Though the front half of Grub is mostly text about the importance of eating organically, the back half of the book contains seasonal and themed vegetarian (mostly vegan) dinner party menus. This stew is listed in one of the menus for fall.

Though I only make it once a year, I make a huge pot. So I've got a few bowls leftover. I'll be enjoying a bowl tomorrow for lunch with a hearty slice of whole wheat beer bread.