Monday, January 31, 2011

I Won Cookies!

I was smack dab in the middle of my 21-day Vegan Kickstart cleanse in January when I received an exciting email from Annie at Meet the Shannons. She informed me that I'd won a VegNews-sponsored giveaway on her blog.

I wasn't sure exactly what the prize was, but I knew it involved a year-long subscription to my favorite vegan glossy mag. My old subscription was about the lapse, so perfect timing. When the surprise box arrived, it also included a giant reusable tote that I've since used several times for hauling groceries home from the Whole Foods:

But the best part of the gift package? Cookies!!! Six giant vegan cookies from Alternative Baking Company, to be precise:

Unfortunately, these cookies arrived about a week and a half before I could get back on the sugar. I had to resolve to wait and eat them when the Kickstart plan was through. Y'all, those cookies almost broke my will ... several times. But I held firm and held out until January 22nd.

On that first day off the cleanse, after downing Daiya-covered Mellow Mushroom pizza and vegan peanut butter cups, I ate a whole big ole Alternative Baking Company Simply Vanilla Bean Cookie. I'd never had that flavor before, and it was truly delicious. Strong, real vanilla flavor with just the right amount of softness and chewiness.

The other flavors in my surprise box: Double Chocolate Decadence, Colossal Chocolate Chip, Phenomenal Pumpkin Spice, Outrageous Oatmeal Raisin with Walnuts, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip. Most of these are stored in my freezer, but I've also finished off the PB Chocolate Chip.

Oh, by the way, don't forget about the Vegan Cooking Retreat at the Farm in Summertown, Tennessee from February 25th-27th. I'll be leading a cooking demo, along with some awesome vegan cookbook authors like Louise Hagler and Alan Roettinger! Click here to register.

What are your favorite store-bought vegan cookies?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Tea Party That Didn't Happen

My friend Stephanie (Poopie Bitch) turned 30 on Friday, and she planned an Alice In Wonderland-themed tea party to celebrate on Saturday. I signed up to bring the finger sandwiches. And since I was going to dress as the Queen of Hearts, I made some surprise cookies with heart-shaped cut-outs. And then Stephanie called on Saturday morning to say that she had the flu, and she'd have to cancel the party. Poor Stephanie!

Luckily, I already had another party to attend that was scheduled to happen before Stephanie's. So I brought my food there instead. Food Awareness, our local vegetarian group, met on Saturday just after lunch for a screening of Food Inc. I brought my Cucumber & Cream Cheeze Sandwiches:

These were made with cucumbers marinated in rice vinegar, mirin, and a pinch of evaporated cane juice. The cream cheeze is Tofutti.

I also made some Tofu & Olive Eggless Salad Sandwiches using a recipe from my upcoming cookbook:

And I made these Adorable Bleeding Heart Sandwich Cookies from the Vegan Cookie Connoisseur:

These cookies were incredible! The cookie part were ultra-soft sugar cookies and they were sandwiched together with buttercream and strawberry preserves. So far, the Vegan Cookie Connoisseur has been a huge hit!

The film screening wasn't a potluck, but one of our members Amy also brought a dish — this amazing Orange "Chicken" Paella:

She used vegan chicken strips, and the rice had a really strong orange flavor. So tasty. In addition, we had Thai coconut soup, a lentil spinach stew, and lots of snacky foods. Here's a picture of my plate filled with cashews, soy nuts, my sandwiches, Amy's rice, carrots, hummus, and chips:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Butterscotch Coconut Bars!

I love cookies. Yes, I do. But you know what I love even more? Bars!! Gooey, chocolatey, decadent bars. On Christmas Eve, my mom made a yummy batch of Magical Coconut Bars from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. OMG. Best dessert ever.

So when I saw the recipe for Seven Layer Bars in my brand-new copy of the Vegan Cookie Connoisseur by Kelly Peloza, I knew that I HAD to make them:

The recipe is quite similar to the VCIYCJ recipe, but it contains the super-awesome addition of butterscotch chips!! I have a stash of generic butterscotch chips from Food Lion, which just so happen to be vegan.

I made these for True Blood Tuesdays (which we had on Thursday this week). All the girls loved them! There's a layer of homemade graham cracker crust, a layer of chocolate chips, a layer of coconut caramel, more coconut, butterscotch chips, and sliced almonds (which I subbed for the walnuts in the recipe). Technically, that's only six layers. But who's counting, right?

This was the first recipe I've made from Kelly's book, but it's a sure-fire winner! If these bars are any indication, Kelly's book is ridiculously awesome.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Supervegan Pancakes!!

Remember last year when I made every recipe-of-the-month from Sarah Kramer's awesome 2010 Go Vegan wall calendar? Well, I'm continuing that tradition in 2011. Kramer's 2011 Go Vegan wall calendar — featuring kitschy veganized versions of classic album covers — is proudly displayed in my kitchen.

January features Kramer as the waitress lady on the cover of Supertramp's "Breakfast In America." Here's the original album cover art. Imagine Sarah Kramer posing as the waitress and copies of her cookbooks making up the buildings in the background. I wish I had a JPEG of the actual Kramer calendar image, but those don't seem to be available online. Guess you gotta buy the calendar! It's only $4.48 on Amazon right now.

Honestly, I don't really know anything about the band Supertramp, but I do love the January recipe — Banana Pecan Pancakes!

These fluffy flapjacks (does anyone really call them that?) were naturally sweetened with ripe banana and flecked with a generous amount of chopped raw pecans. I topped 'em with a little warm maple syrup and a side of Gimme Lean vegan sausage. Best breakfast ever!

What's your favorite flavor combo for pancakes?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Spaghetti Night!!

My boyfriend Paul is NOT vegan. He's not even vegetarian. But I met him in my pregan days (I was vegetarian then, not vegan), so I consider him to be grandfathered in. I wouldn't date a new meat eater, but Paul knew me before I was vegan, so I can look past his obvious flaws.

Paul rarely eats anything healthy, but the one veggie dish that he absolutely loves is meatless spaghetti. We don't typically eat dinner together, but every few months, we have a Spaghetti Night. Every Spaghetti Night begins with the most important ingredient — wine! Tonight, I selected a vegan-friendly, sulfite-free, organic bottle of Orleans Hill Cote Zero (it even says "vegan" on the label ... and it's only $9!):

Check out my gimped-up finger ... remember that cat bite from December? Yep, totally messed my index finger up. I can't use it for another 2 weeks!

Next, Paul starts the mushrooms:

Nobody fries up mushrooms like Paul. In fact, I hated mushrooms when I met him, but his tasty 'shrooms changed my mind. These were sauteed in lots of Earth Balance, cumin, sriracha, and Bragg's:

I'm in charge of the homemade sauce — broken-up whole canned tomatoes, lots of garlic, dried basil and oregano, sea salt, a pinch of sugar, and a splash of red wine:

We serve our spaghetti over half-whole wheat angel hair pasta. I'd prefer all-whole wheat, but Paul's picky:

I also topped my pasta with some Lightlife Smart Ground veggie crumbles, but Paul opted for a totally meat-substitute free plate. And I served mine with an olive and romaine salad. Yum!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Daiya-Fueled Relapse!!

When I woke up Saturday morning, I was a free woman. After 21 days on a no-processed food/ no refined sugar/no beer/Vegan Kickstart meal plan, I was finally free to eat whatever I damn well chose. So what did I choose? A couple of melty slices of vegan Daiya-covered Mega-Veggie Pizza from Mellow Mushroom:

OMG, y'all! Relapse tasted so good. I met Stephanie, her husband Richard, and their baby Peter at the Mellow Mushroom in Germantown. Steph and I split a large Mega-Veggie, which was generously covered in melty Daiya mozzarella. I managed to down two slices, washed down with a Ghost River Wee Heavy porter (a local brew made from the waters of the Wolf River). I saved two more slices for lunch the next day.

After I got home, I ate a well-deserved vegan peanut butter cup. Remember these that Stephanie made me for Christmas?

Oh yea. Saturday was a good day. It was really the first chance I had to celebrate the send-off of my cookbook manuscript, which happened a week ago Friday. Yea! The book should be published within the year.

What would be your ultimate relapse food after 21 days of healthy eatin'?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Vegan Kickstart Is Over!!!

Friday was Day 21 of my 21-Day Vegan Kickstart plan, and that means the cleanse is officially OVER!!! Though the meals on the plan were pretty yummy, I'm so glad to be done. I was growing weary of being told what to eat. Plus, I was craving vegan cheeze and chocolate!!

The last day began with a decadent breakfast of Banana French Toast and Vegan Sausage:

Though I was trying to avoid processed foods during the cleanse, I decided it was okay to eat vegan sausage on the last day. I used Lightlife Gimme Lean.

Lunch was leftover Ratatouille Sauce and White Beans over a Baked Potato:

That was a damn tasty use of my leftovers. In fact, I'm having the same thing for dinner tonight since I have some sauce left.

Since it was the last day on the plan, I got an extra special dessert — Blueberry Muffins made with real evaporated cane juice! These were moist and yummy with a hint of orange.

My dinner was Hearty Chili Mac:

This was also made with processed food — Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style. It was the last day, so what the hell? Even the picky boyfriend liked this dish made with quinoa macaroni, corn, kidney beans, crushed tomatoes, and the veggie burger. I made a lot so I'll be eating this for a few more days.

My fruit snack — enjoyed after dinner — was fresh Cantaloupe with salt and pepper (the ONLY way to eat cantaloupe):

Be sure and check back tomorrow to see the ultimate relapse meal that I enjoyed on Saturday!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Vegan Kickstart: Day 20 (Almost There!)

Just one more day, y'all. One more day and I go back to my normal chocolate-eatin', beer-sippin', processed food-eatin' ways. I love the healthy eats and all, but a girl needs her junk food too. Day 20 of the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart plan began with a hearty slice of Spinach & Mushroom Frittata with Rye Bread:

Now I'm well aware that this may be the ugliest tofu frittata ever photographed, but it was pretty tasty. Lots of spinach! I seasoned it with black salt to up the eggy taste. This was five million times more satisfying than yesterday's breakfast smoothie.

Lunch was three Quickie Quesadillas made with corn tortillas, roasted red pepper hummus, green onion, tomatoes, and salsa:

It started snowing here around noon! This has been the craziest winter ever for Memphis. Snow twice is January .... unheard of! Most people left work early to pick up kids from closed schools or just because, hey, it was snowing. Snow day! But I had lots to do so I stayed at work all day and enjoyed my snack of Cheezy Dill Popcorn in the peaceful, deserted office:

Dinner was one of my top faves of the cleanse — Mung Bean Pasta with Chunky Ratatouille Sauce and White Beans:

The sauce was made from red wine, eggplant, fire-roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, celery, onions, and garlic. So tasty! And the mung bean pasta is so ridiculously good.

I skipped my dessert on Sunday because I just wasn't feeling it, so I made up for that lost dessert tonight! This Chocolate Banana Smoothie was everything a smoothie should be — a snack (not a meal), banana-y, and heavy on the chocolate soymilk. No fancy health powder add-ins here. Just yummy bananas and chocolate.

Before I close out, I want to let y'all know about an exciting event. From February 25th-27th, the Farm in Summertown is hosting a Vegan Cooking Retreat and I'll be doing a presentation. I'm planning to demonstrate several dishes from my upcoming cookbook, so if you're in the area (or if you feel like a road trip), come on down to the Farm!

Other presenters include Louise Hagler (Tofu Cookery!), Alan Roettinger (author of Speed Vegan), Barbara Bloomfield (one of the Farm's best cooks! I know from personal experience), and Cynthia Holzapfel (managing editor of the Book Publishing Company). Click here for more info.

Vegan Kickstart: Day 19 (with Taste!)

I have my sense of taste back! Well, at least in the eating sense. I've never really had the best taste for style. But you know what I mean. I'd lost my ability to taste yesterday as a result of a nasty case of bronchitis, but I'm feeling much better today.

Breakfast on Day 19 of the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart plan was a Green Goodie Smoothie — pineapple juice, soymilk, frozen peaches, raspberries, and Amazing Grass Superfood powder. The recipe suggested using spirulina, but I couldn't find small sample packets of that stuff. I didn't want to buy a whole jar of spirulina because it's pricey and I know it will go to waste. But the Amazing Grass contains spirulina and lots of other healthy stuff, so I grabbed a one-serving packet from Whole Foods:

Lunch was a simple Tomato, Cucumber, & Basil Salad. I wasn't all that excited about this dish because I'm tired of salads. But it was tasty dressed with a little fig balsamic vinegar:

Although the salad was the only item listed for lunch, that wasn't enough for my massive appetite. Thankfully, I had lots of Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Pita left from Monday's snack, so I added this to my lunch:

I had a meeting after work, and I was glad to have some homemade Berry Applesauce to tide me over until dinner. This was made from cooked-down Fuji apples and frozen mixed berries:

Dinner was Dining Out: Italian Night, the last dining-out day on the cleanse. So many Italian joints serve fresh pasta (made with eggs), but according to Vegan Express, several of Macaroni Grill's items are vegan so that's where we went. The boyfriend and I made a dinner date of it. I started with a bowl of Mediterranean Olives:

And I ordered the Capellini Pomodoro — the same dish I always order here. It's baby-fine capellini noodles tossed with extra virgin olive oil, fresh tomatoes, and basil. I normally only eat half and save the rest for later, but I downed this whole plate! I was hungry.

What vegan items do you order from Italian restaurants?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Vegan Kickstart: Day 18 (and No Tastebuds)

I've been sick with a nasty case of bronchitis now for 5 days. Over the course of this illness, I've had a nagging cough, a slight fever, body aches, a runny nose, a stuffy nose, you name it. And all of that sucked. But nothing sucks worse than losing my ability to taste and smell. That's what happened today — ALL DAY!

I'm on Day 18 of the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart plan and I was pretty stoked about breakfast — Van's Gluten-Free Buckwheat Waffles with homemade Berry Applesauce:

Unfortunately, I took one bite only to realize that I couldn't taste a thing. The dish had a nice texture though. Bummer. I was sure my tastebuds would be back in time for lunch, and I was pleased when I could sort of taste my leftover Buckwheat Pasta with Seitan:

But only sort of. I had to blow my nose between bites to really catch the flavor. Since I ate at my desk today, I didn't want to blow my nose every five seconds lest I gross out my co-workers.

My snack today was Grapes, and though my sense of taste was mostly gone again by snack time, I enjoyed the squishy texture.

I was way excited about dinner — a wholesome bowl of Zippy Yams and Bok Choy Over Brown Rice:

Okay, they were actually sweet potatoes, but the recipe called them yams so I'm doing it too. These were seasoned with soy sauce and curry paste, and thankfully, I was able to vaguely taste the first few bites. But then my sense of taste died again. So sad. I don't see much point in living if you can't taste. I would rather be blind or deaf than lose my tastebuds. Let's hope they're back tomorrow so I'll have a reason to go on (and yes, I am kind of a drama queen).

Which of your senses is most important to you?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Vegan Kickstart Day 17: Asian Day!

So I'm still sick. But I'm feeling just a tad better. Lucky for me, we had the King holiday off from work and that meant an extra day to recover. Day 17 also happened to be an awesome day of eats on the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart plan.

I felt awful when I first woke up, but this warm bowl of Steel Cut Oats with Peanut Butter and Maple Syrup soothed my sicky soul:

After breakfast, I went right back to bed and slept until about 11:30 a.m. That's when I forced my stinky sick self into the shower. Today was Dining Out: Chinese day for lunch, and I wasn't about to miss that! I made myself look somewhat presentable and headed to Pei Wei Asian Diner. Not my first choice for Chinese, but the Kickstart plan instructs you to seek out healthy Chinese food with brown rice and no MSG. The only place in Midtown that offers healthier Chinese fare is Pei Wei.

I settled on the Spicy Korean Vegetables & Tofu with Brown Rice:

This was damn good y'all! Best thing I've ever tried from Pei Wei. It featured a generous amount of baked tofu, carrots, mushrooms, and green beans in a spicy white pepper sauce.

My snack was supposed to be soy yogurt, but I had lunch so late (around 2:30 p.m.) that I just wasn't hungry at snack time. So I waited until the evening meal to eat again. This Lentil Artichoke Stew really hit the spot. Perfect sick day food!

Red lentils, fire-roasted tomatoes, and tender artichoke hearts. It doesn't get much better than that.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Vegan Kickstart: Sick Days

So remember when I called my boyfriend a big baby for whining about his 102-degree fever? Well, I'm eating my words. Turns out, he had a really bad case of bronchitis, and now I have it too. On Thursday (Day 13 of the Vegan Kickstart Plan), I woke up feeling just fine. I ate this bowl of Fruited Breakfast Quinoa, and it was just okay. Kinda plain. The only sweetener was dried apricots and raisins, so I added some maple syrup and that helped:

Lunch was this lovely Ethiopian Tomato Salad (cherry tomatoes, onions, jalepenos, and lemon juice) and Pita with Asian Guacamole. The guacamole had ginger and Thai chili oil, and it was tasty. I prefer regular old guac though:

My snack was edamame, but I forgot to take a picture. I never made it to dinner though. According to the Kickstart plan, I was supposed to have Black Bean Chili and Easy Cornbread Muffins. I was really looking forward to that chili, but when I got home from work, my boyfriend's fever was back. The night before, the doctor at the minor med mentioned that he should go to the ER and get checked for meningitis. The boyfriend was having neck pains along with the fever, and those are symptoms of meningitis.

Unfortunately, getting checked for meningitis means getting a freakin' SPINAL TAP!! Like in The Exorcist! He chickened out that first night, and after his fever went down, he figured it was just a cold. But since his fever was back the next day, he thought he really might have meningitis. So we went to the ER on Thursday night, and he got his spinal tap. The good news? He was negative for meningitis. The bad news? He has a really bad case of bronchitis and he got a spinal tap for nothing!

As for dinner on Thursday, I grabbed a Sunshine burger on the way out the door. We were at the ER for 5 1/2 hours and I was still hungry after my burger, so I hit up the vending machine for some pretzels. Not the best dinner, but pretzels were the healthiest option in the snack machine.

I woke up Friday morning feeling fine. But since I'd stayed at the hospital so late the night before, I opted to swap out Friday's tofu scramble breakfast for Saturday's easier oats. I added raw Macadamia Nut Butter and Maple Syrup to my bowl of Oat Bran:

Lunch was Pasta Salad made with whole wheat shells, kidney beans, artichoke hearts, red pepper, and sundried tomatoes:

By mid-afternoon, I was starting to feel a little icky. I had been so sure that I wouldn't get sick. I thought my Kickstart diet of healthy foods and my regular workout routine would act as some kind of shield. But not even this DIY Fruit Salad of pineapple, honeydew, and strawberries could ward off the impending sickness:

By the end of the work day, I was full-on sick. I rushed home after work to take some Thera-flu, and that made me feel a little better. I was thankful that my Kickstart dinner was this bowl of DIY Beans, Greens, and Grains. You pick your favorite bean, green, and grain and make a meal of it. I chose brown rice, collard greens, and black beans. This wholesome dinner made me feel a little better:


On Saturday morning, I awoke feeling like complete ass. But I had all the ingredients to make what was supposed to have been Friday's breakfast — Zucchini Scramble with Corn Tortillas and Homefries. Both dishes were oil-free, and while that worked for the scramble, the homefries were a little blah. You really shouldn't make homefries without oil:

Lunch was leftover Pasta Salad, which was still pretty tasty despite my sicky tastebuds. Dinner couldn't have been more appropriate for a Saturday night with bronchitis — Spicy Thai Soup made with fresh ginger, garlic, jalepeno, bok choy, broccoli, and mushrooms:

I made the Easy Cornbread Muffins that I was supposed to have with Thursday night's chili. They were oil-free and really, really dry. I wouldn't recommend this recipe at all. But they were sorta decent dipped into the spicy broth. I made quite a few of them so like them or not, I'll be eating them for a few days:

Sunday morning started with another bowl of Smart Bran with soymilk and blueberries. It didn't taste so hot with my messed up tastebuds. But my lunch of leftover Spicy Thai Soup and a Baked Sweet Potato really hit the spot:

Sunday's snack was Roasted Red Pepper Hummus with Pita. If there's one thing I love to do when I'm sick, it's eat. So I appreciated this hearty snack:

And dinner may have been my favorite meal on the Kickstart plan to date — Buckwheat Pasta with Seitan. I used my own seitan recipe for this stroganoff-like dish. The creamy gravy was the perfect match for chewy seitan, tender mushrooms, caramelized onions, and buckwheat soba:

I was also scheduled for a dessert on Sunday night, but I didn't eat dinner until 9 p.m. So I'll save my dessert for tomorrow. Hopefully, I'll feel better by then.