Thursday, May 31, 2012

Who Says Vegans Can't Eat Steak?

Yep, that's right. We can have our steak and eat it too. Of course, this isn't a recreation of the nasty, bloody butcher shop steak. These are little soy-based Vegan Black Pepper Steak bites from VegeUSA's Vegetarian Plus line:

I was sent a couple of free coupons to review a few of their products. But my Whole Foods currently only carries their Vegan Black Pepper Steak. So I tossed a box in my cart last time I went to the grocery store.

You can really do all sorts of stuff with these little peppery bites. But since this is a frozen food, I figured I'd keep the whole meal convenient by buying a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies to accompany my steak. In less than 10 minutes, this lovely Black Pepper Steak Stir-fry was on my dinner table:

Well, it would have taken much longer if I hadn't prepped my brown rice the night before. But I did, so the meal was easy-peasy.

As for taste, these little yummers are quite delish. They don't taste like cow steak though. In fact, the taste is very similar to other Asian-inspired Vegetarian Plus meats I've tried (like their Kung Pao Chicken). Sort of a gingery, salty-sweet chewy seitan. They're actually soy-based, not gluten-based. But they have that meaty seitan texture.

Here's what's in 'em: Water, Soybean Fiber, Soybean Oil, Soybean Protein, Carrageenan, Food Starch, Raw Cane Sugar, Sea Salt, Caramel Color, Black Pepper Granule, Yeast Peptone Powder, Enoritake Mushroom Essence, Natural Vegan Flavor, Soy Sauce Paste, Paprika.

Not bad. All pronounceable, real foods. My only qualm with the product is the pricetag. Although I was able to review these for free, one box costs nearly $7 at my Whole Foods! And although the package claims to hold four servings, it's really more like two servings ... unless you eat like a bird (which I do not). If you have money to shell out on convenience foods, give these a try. They're delicious. But if you live paycheck to paycheck like I do, you might just wanna eat tofu instead.

Imagine Vegan Cafe Has Faux Shrimp (and Other New Items)!

Memphis' only full-service vegan restaurant, Imagine Vegan Cafe, recently celebrated its first anniversary (check out this post for pics of the out-of-control birthday buffet), so owners Adam and Kristie decided it was time to revamp the menu.

Now, for those who don't live in Memphis, let me explain something about Imagine Vegan Cafe. The original menu was already massive with around 60 savory items (think chicken fried steak, cheesesticks, drumsticks, vegan cheese pizza, Philly cheesesteaks, beef tips & rice) and a rotating array of vegan layer cakes, cupcakes, deep dish pies, brownies, fudge, cookies, and milkshakes. But now the menu is even bigger with 13 more items! They removed a couple of items that didn't sell so well, but for the most part, the original menu is intact.

One of the most impressive selections on the new menu is the Fried Vegan Shrimp Plate:

They use the VegeUSA Vegan Shrimp. They're battered, fried, and served with cocktail sauce. I've never had real shrimp, but my omni boyfriend Paul tried one, and he said they are a dead ringer for the real thing. And they even look like real shrimp on the inside! Just FYI: I never liked seafood when I did eat meat. So I was a little skeptical as to whether or not I'd like these. But they don't taste fishy at all. They just have a fun chewy texture.

With most entrees, you can choose two sides, so I picked my long-time faves: Mac & Cheese (made with Teese!) and Broccoli with Imagine's homemade ranch for dippin'.

Before, the menu was printed on white paper, and a gigantic blown-up version of the menu was taped to the wall by the front counter. But now they've gone all out and had real menus printed and encased in plastic. Adorbs!

Other new items include Fried Calamari, Potato Skins, Vegetable Soup, Cornbread, Double Bacon Cheeseburger, Chicken Bacon Melt, Meatball Sub, Spaghetti & Meatballs, Turkey Cutlets with Gravy, Stuffed Peppers (I had those last week ... so good!), and Chili Cheese Fries. They're also making their own Thousand Island and "Honey" Mustard Dressings in-house as well.

Since I've tried EVERYTHING on their old menu (I eat there every week ... sometimes twice a week!), I'm excited for the challenge of working my way through the new selections. Next up: Double Bacon Cheeseburger. Oh yea.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Brown Rice + Tofu + Toast

As any regular readers have probably figured out by now, I don't often make the same thing twice. I love trying new recipes, so unless something just totally blows me away, I probably will never make it again. And some recipes (okay, LOTS of recipes) do blow me away but still don't get made again because I just never get around to them. I have so many cookbooks and so little time!

But there's one simple breakfast that I've been coming back to over and over — Bernard's Brown Rice Breakfast from The Garden of Vegan:

Sarah Kramer and Tonya Bernard's (the recipe's namesake) The Garden of Vegan was my first vegan cookbook, and I've been making this since at least 2004 or 2005, right after going vegan. It looks kinda crazy, but it's oh-so-delicious. I blogged about my love for this tasty morning meal back in 2009 too.

Toast is topped with plain, heated tofu mixed with brown rice. Yes, it's unseasoned. But that's okay because you spray the tofu and rice-covered toast with Bragg's (or soy sauce) and then drizzle it all with flax oil and ketchup. Morning's don't really get better than this.

Do you ever make the same thing twice?

Memorial Day Vegan BBQ

Our Memphis vegetarian group — Food Awareness — celebrated Memorial Day with a vegan BBQ potluck at my friend Vaughan's house. Check out Vaughan's weirdly cute (and grammatically incorrect) homemade sign:

Vaughan fired up the grill, and I tossed on some Veggie Tofu Kabobs that I made using the Basic Broiled Tofu recipe from Appetite for Reduction:

We also grilled Tofurky Beer Brats, but I forgot to take a picture of those. You all know what they look like, right?

Greg brought his famous Tofu Chicken Nuggets. These keep getting better and better every time. They really taste like chicken!

Vaughan made Mustard Buckwheat, which sounds really weird and hippie-ish. But it was actually quite tasty:

And Vaughan also steamed some Mustard Greens, which we ate with Hart's homemade Ghost Pepper Sauce. Man, that stuff was H-O-T! But delicious! That stuff will put hair on your chest, for reals.

There were a few more dishes that I failed to photograph, like Andy's Pasta Salad with Tofu Feta (so proud that my non-veg friend used tofu in place of feta!!) and John's Baked Beans.

For dessert, I made Blondies using the Bella Brownie Maker machine that Greg got me for Christmas. Have y'all seen these Bella machines? Target and Amazon sell them. They're little plug-in machines (like wafflemakers) that cook brownies in eight minutes. This was the first time I've used it, and I was blown away by these brownies. They were the chewy, soft kind ... like a big ole cookie bar! I used the blondie recipe in the booklet that came with the machine, substituting Ener-G egg replacer powder for the eggs called for in the recipe.

Shay made a tasty Berry Cobbler:

Rita brought a bowl full of cherries! I love fresh cherry season!

Lara brought her mind-blowing Peanut Butter Truffles:

But Shannon wins the award for most creative grilled dessert — Banana Boats! She made a slit in a banana and stuffed them with carob chips. And then we melted them, with the skin still on, on the grill:

To eat these, we just opened the peel a little more and dug out the melty carob banana with a spoon. Fun!!

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Every month, I make the featured recipe in the 2012 Happy Herbivore calendar. So far, all the recipes have been low-fat (that's the HH's schtick) and delicious. So far, I've made strawberry cupcakes, hot cocoa, green pea hummus, and colcannon, But May's selection is my favorite by far — Lentil Tacos!!

The recipe is so simple, and I'm sorta pissed that I've never thought to use lentils in place of taco meat before. But now I'm making up for all that lost time. Lentils make the best taco meat, y'all! Dried lentils are cooked with chili powder, onion powder, and lots of other spices to create a tasty taco meat. The recipe calls for optional chickpeas, so I used those as well.

The rest of my taco is topped with Galaxy Vegan Mexican Shreds, Follow Your Heart Non-Dairy Sour Cream, tomatoes, and my new friend arugala. Yes, I'm giving arugala a second chance, and I think we've reconciled our differences. Also on the plate is a heapin' helpin' of my Dirty South Rice (the recipe will be in my cookbook, but it's basically a Spanish-influenced dirty rice).

What do you put in your taco? (And yes, I'm aware that sounds dirty).

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Asian Soul Food Fusion

When I moved to Memphis 10 years ago, this city really didn't have much going for it. We had a new-ish NBA team that kinda sucked. We had a lot of crime and a lot of pig barbecue.

We still have all those things (except our NBA team — the Memphis Grizzlies — has had some shining moments). But now we have so much more — bike lanes all over the city, three dog parks, a skateboard park, more farmers markets than I can count, a vegan restaurant, an organic and raw vegan juice bar, four places to get vegan cheese pizza, and a handful of enterprising young chefs willing to go the vegan mile. We have people like Kevin Sullivan and his vegan-friendly food business, Ki Kitchen.

"Ki" means "soul" in Japanese, so it's an appropriate name for Sullivan's unique style of cooking which blends Southern soul food with Asian cuisine. Sullivan works at Tsunami, a local seafood restaurant. But on the side, he creates to-go vegan dishes brimming with originality (and tastiness). Sullivan stopped by the Memphis Flyer office a few weeks ago to let us sample his goods.

My co-worker/Flyer food writer Hannah Sayle wrote about Sullivan and Ki Kitchen this week, so check out her story on how Sullivan went from a part-time high school bus boy to an awesome vegan-friendly chef. Sullivan isn't vegan, and not everything Ki Kitchen creates is meat-free. But many of his dishes are!

His Black-Eyed Pea Hummus is my personal Ki Kitchen favorite. It's creamy and hummus-y, but it has that Southern flair thanks to his use of black-eyed peas:

The sweet 'n' savory Tomato Jam is just amazing too. I've been enjoying this on bagels spread with Galaxy Chive & Garlic Vegan Cream Cheese:

Perhaps his most unique dish is the Collard Green Kimchi. Now, I love me some kimchi (when I can find a vegan version), but collards trump cabbage in my book every time. This tangy-sweet dish is loaded with tender leaves, carrots, onions, and a hint of ginger:

Sullivan also makes some scrumptious and tangy Chow Chow (that's relish for all you Yankees) for serving with your fried taters or hot dogs and such:

If you're lucky enough to live in this bordering-on-awesome city, you can order any of Sullivan's dishes for $4 to $5. Check out his Facebook page for a menu.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mike's Secret Chex Mix Recipe

My friend Mike makes the best Chex Mix! He brings a batch to every potluck and party, which in my circle of friends, occurs on way regular basis. When Mike brings the Chex Mix, he always separates me out a bag to take home because he knows how much I love the stuff. And I always take the mix to work to snack on at my desk. And then my co-worker Hannah always helps herself to as much as she wants. It happens every time.

So about a month ago, Hannah decided to replace the Chex Mix she'd eaten. We requested Mike's recipe, and he passed it along. Hannah made a big ole double batch, but we inhaled it. And then on Tuesday morning, we came to the sad, sad realization that there was no more Chex Mix. And that meant it was my turn to bring the Chex Mix.

So I used Mike's recipe, with a couple of tweaks of my own, to make a double batch. Now we're stocked with Chex Mix again. Yea! I'm guessing Hannah and I will go back and forth, taking turns keeping the Chex Mix stockpiled on my desk (I'm the Keeper of All Snacks because Hannah has less willpower).

Without Mike's permission (because I forgot to ask), I'm sharing his secret recipe. I'm pretty sure he won't care. And if he does, so what. Is he gonna sue me? Doubt it.

Mike's Fabulous Chex Mix (in his own words, stolen from a Facebook message)
In one bowl ...
2 cups of rice chex
2 cups of corn chex
2 cups of wheat chex
1 cup of cheerios
sometimes I throw in something else. These last couple of times it was about half a cup or so of sesame sticks.
1 can of DELUXE mixed nuts
1 jar of macadamia nuts

Actually I put it in a giant roasting pan.

Other bowl ...
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil (Bianca's note: I only used 1/2 cup of oil)
2 tbs of vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 tbs of Dale's Seasoning (it's in a bottle, looks kind of like soy sauce with tons of spices in it)
1 tsp of garlic salt
1 tsp of onion salt
1 tsp of Tony Chachere's Cajun Spice (they have a regular and a hotter one)
1/2 tsp paprika

Then is when you get creative.
If I'm making it hotter for y'all,
I add hot sauce, cayenne pepper, stuff like that.
If you want to make it really hot, you have to add more than you'd think though. The olive oil seems to negate some of the kick it gives.

I usually just whisk the bowl with all the spices and oil long enough to get it mixed thoroughly. Some people put it on a pot and heat it up first.

Pour it all over the bowl with all the cereal and nuts and stir it around to coat it all. You'll see the oil at the bottom of the container.

Put in the oven at 250
Cook it for an hour, and you stir it every 15 minutes

Note: I've heard from a fellow blogger that the vitamin D in Chex is derived from sheep's wool, but I use the generic kind. I'm not totally sure of its vegan-ness, but it appears okay. I'm not that picky. I'm sure the Vegan Police will come after me for saying that, but whatevs.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Grilled Cheese for Grown Folks

A week or so ago, I received a package with two sample bags of Galaxy brand's new Vegan Shreds. I wasn't sure what to expect, as I've been unimpressed with some of Galaxy's earlier vegan cheese products. I remember when I first tried their block cheese (and this was way back in the day), thinking that Vegan Rella was the better choice. Vegan Rella! My, my. How far we have come!

Well, I tried the Mexican Style Shreds first. I tasted them cold, tried a little melted onto chili, and then I melted them onto this Grilled Cheese for Grown-Ups from Vegan Cooking for Carnivores:

I'm gonna put it to ya straight: This cheese is amazing! It's right up there with Daiya in terms of meltiness. And taste-wise, well, let's just say Galaxy has upped their game a hundred-fold since my first Galaxy experience. It actually tastes similar to Daiya, but the texture of the cold stuff is a tad drier. I recommend melting if you're a picky vegan cheese eater. I'm not.

Of course, I had a clue it would be better than the old cheese stuff. In recent months, I've discovered that Galaxy makes a better vegan cream cheese than Tofutti, and the Rice Vegan slices aren't half bad if melting isn't a priority. But these shreds are Melty McMelterson. For reals.

They also sent me a package of mozzarella shreds, but I'm going to save those for a pizza, which I'll blog about soon.

Now about that grilled cheese. This is by far the most sophisticated grilled cheese I've ever had. Two Earth Balanced slices of sprouted grain toast are spread with Dijon, a homemade rosemary red onion jam from Vegan Cooking for Carnivores, tomato, vegan cheese, and arugala. Absolutely delicious.

I really thought I hated arugala, and I almost left it off this sandwich. But the arugala man at the Memphis Farmers Market was just giving the stuff away last week because he felt like his crop wasn't very pretty. So I got some and gave it another try. I used to like the stuff until I had an arugala salad with tahini dressing. Don't ever try those two things together. Barf city. It ruined me on arugala for years.

But the wilted peppery greens really worked in this sandwich. They complemented the tangy Dijon and balsamic-laced onion jam. I may just like arugala again after all.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Vegan Cooking for Carnivores

I love Ellen DeGeneres. Love her! She's really funny and she's vegan. And that's all it takes to make me like you (although I may still like you if you're not vegan ... maybe). When I heard that Ellen and Portia's personal chef was putting out a vegan cookbook, I was stoked.

Chef Roberto Martin wasn't vegan (but I definitely still like him) when he took the job of creating meals for Ellen and Portia. In fact, he was concerned that he wouldn't know how to please a vegan. But he did what every good omni chef should do: He took the same flavors he used in meat dishes and used them in vegan ones. He made real food, not hippie, healthy crap. Now he's sharing some of the ultimate power couple's favorite recipes in this full-color, hardback book.

On first flip-through, I knew I'd have a hard time deciding what to try first. The photos of Chick'n Pot Pie, Faux Pho, creamy Mac 'n' Cheese, Tofu Crab Cakes, and Beluga Lentil Caviar on Blini are absolutely drool-inducing. But when I stumbled upon the Southern Fried Chick'n, I knew what to do:

For one, it's Southern food, and y'all know that's my bag. But this vegan fried chicken is different from any other for one awesome reason — it has skin!! In a genius experiment, Martin tried rolling Gardein in rice paper spring roll wrappers to give the meat a skin similar to the skin on animal fried chicken. It's battered with a seasoned flour mixture and a Tabasco-laced cashew cream. And then it's fried in hot oil. Look inside:

Now it's been a very long time since I've eaten chicken skin (more than 17 years!), but this is how I remember it. This recipe truly would impress a carnivore, I'm sure. I also love how Martin uses Gardein in many of his recipes. While I love homemade seitan (and call for it in many of the recipes in my own cookbook), I also love recipes that come together in minutes. Martin's recipes are quick and easy, and they still feel gourmet.

On the side, I made Martin's Creamed Spinach:

It should really be called creamed spinach and peas since there's as much peas as spinach. But regardless of its name, this dish was delish. The veggies are whisked into a milk gravy. So good! I've never had dairy creamed spinach, but I'm sure this dish would impress omnis as well. Since Martin relies on simple preparations and universal flavors, these are perfect for converting impressing meatheads omnis.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bike to Work Day

Friday was Downtown Memphis Bike-to-Work Day, an annual event encouraging employees of companies located in downtown Memphis to pedal their way into the office. Since I live in Midtown, a short 7 to 10 minute car drive from the downtown headquarters of the Memphis Flyer, I hopped on Falcor (that's what I call my Electra Ladies Cruiser ... yes, I am a nerd) for a leisurely ride to work.

Last year, there were only two of us who biked to work. But this year, we had five employees take to the streets (and bike lanes). Here we are: ad man Chip Googe, marketing guru Matt Writt, senior editor John Branston, ad guy Mark Plumlee, and me (associate editor):

The Downtown Memphis Commission, the event's sponsor, awards the three companies with the most employees who bike to work. And guess what? We got third place!

But enough about bikes. You're here for the food, right? Well, the Downtown Memphis Commission hosted a Bike Expo with live music and food trucks in Court Square at noon, so I rode my bike over for some Vegan Tacos from the Fuel Cafe food truck:

God, I love these tacos! I've eaten them countless times, and they never disappoint. Two corn tortillas melded together with vegan cheese and stuffed with Fuel's homemade veggie burger, vegan sour cream, and avocado. I dusted mine with a little chili-lime salt.

Live From Memphis was there with their famous smoothie bike! I'm not sure how it works, but there's a blender attached to the pedals. They were offering free smoothies for anyone who peddled the blender themselves. And their offerings were totally vegan. They had fresh fruit, orange juice, and soy milk. Yep, no dairy. Just soy. Hell yea. Here I am peddling my way to a fresh fruit smoothie:

And yes, I'm wearing my helmet on a stationary bike. Don't judge. I just forgot to take it off. Here's my delicious and refreshing smoothie. It really hit the spot on this 90-degree day! Oh, and check out my Bike-to-Work Day bike bell. It was free in the schwag bags we got for participating:

Biking to work took me about 45 minutes in one direction, and according to my heart rate monitor, I burned 400 calories there and back. If I biked to work everyday, I'd never have to exercise again! Also, biking to work this year was WAY easier than last year. Since last time, Memphis has put in nearly 35 miles of bike lanes. We had hardly any at this time last year. But this year, our ride was smooth sailing. Memphis will never be uber-bike-friendly, vegan mecca Portland, but we're getting much, much better.

Do you bike? If so, if your city bike-friendly?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Portabella Stroganoff

Beef stroganoff originated in Russia in the 19th century, but it rose to popularity in the U.S. in the 1950s. Wikipedia has a theory:
"After the fall of Imperial Russia, the recipe was popularly served in the hotels and restaurants of China before the start of the Second World War. Russian and Chinese immigrants, as well as U.S. servicemen stationed in pre-Communist China, brought several variants of the dish to the United States, which may account for its popularity during the 1950s."
No matter how it got here, stroganoff was here to stay. People still love this creamy mushroom dish, so I figured I had to include it in my new cookbook project veganizing retro recipes. But rather than substitute a vegan beef for the cow beef, I decided to make Portabella Mushroom Stroganoff:

The sauce is made with white button mushrooms, just like in the beef version. And portabella strips stand in for the beef strips. So this is one mushroom-y dish. I served mine with sauteed chard seasoned with soy sauce, mirin, and olive oil.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Calico Coleslaw

As I've mentioned a few times before, I've started work on my next cookbook project — a collection of veganized retro recipes from the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. I've only just begun, but I've managed to create a few vegan adaptations of recipes found in old cookbooks or on websites devoted to vintage food.

Awhile back, I made this simple, veggie-heavy Calico Coleslaw, adapted from the 1965 Better Homes & Gardens Vegetable Cookbook:

Since I don't have a publisher or contract for this one yet, I can share a few recipes if I want. So I'll pass this one along to you guys.

Calico Coleslaw
4 cups shredded green cabbage
1/2 cup vegan mayo
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1/4 cup green pepper, minced
1/4 of a white onion, finely minced
4-ounce jar diced pimentos, drained
1 tsp. salt

Mix everything together in a large mixing bowl. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spiral Dining

I'm sort of obsessed with Groupon. Anytime a remotely vegan-friendly restaurant offers up a deal, I just can't resist. Sometimes, the deals are real duds (like the time Sky Grille in Memphis wouldn't let me use my Groupon for my cocktails even though it clearly said "$20 for food and drink"). But Groupon (and let's not forget Living Social) helps me branch out and try new local eateries. I rarely ever use Groupon for anything but dining out coupons.

But when Cat of The Verdant Life sent me a link to a Groupon deal offering a World Cuisine Spiralizer for $25 with shipping, I jumped on that. It was the one raw food tool that was missing from my arsenal, but thankfully, it arrived a few weeks back. Before, my raw spaghetti was more like fettucine because I only had a vegetable peeler for cutting wide noodles.

But now, I can make fabulous looking 'sketti to use in recipes like this Sweet Potato & Zucchini Mac 'n' Cheese from Eat Raw, Eat Well:

Not only does the spiralizer make for lovely noodz, but Eat Raw, Eat Well makes for lovely healthy dinner ideas. I've tried lots of raw pasta dishes over the years but never a raw mac 'n' cheese. It's so good, y'all! The cheese is a simple cashew cheese made in the food processor, and it's all topped with a sprinklin' of Chipotle & Cayenne Parma.

I was sent Eat Raw, Eat Well by Douglas NcNish to review, and it hasn't let me down yet. There are several other raw pasta recipes I'd love to try, like the Pasta Bolognese and Zucchini Pasta Aglio e Olio (zuke noodles with an olive oil-based sauce).

There are 400 recipes total ranging from raw Pear & Pumpkin Porridge to Raw Chickpea Hummus and Barbecue Pulled Burdock Sandwiches and Lemon & Cilantro Falafels. Yum!

I made one of the salad dressings from the book to top the salad I served with my raw mac 'n' cheese. This "Roasted" Garlic, Hemp, & Parsley Dressing was the bomb-diggity:

The garlic is "roasted" with a dehydrator, and even though I have a trusty Excalibur, I didn't "roast" my garlic for this dressing. I just forgot. You have to plan way ahead for that kind of stuff, and that didn't happen. But even without roasting, the garlicky green dressing was delicious atop my garden salad.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Martini Pasta Time!

Last week, I finally cracked open my copy of The Tipsy Vegan. It's a vegan cookbook filled with recipes made with alcohol. I first tried the Hangover Tofu Omelet, made with a tiny bit of Marsala cooking wine. It was delicious, but not super boozy.

But my next selection from the book was loaded (and I do mean, loaded) with liquor. The Penne alla Vodka Martini was a vegan spin on the traditional vodka sauce:

I've never seen this much alcohol in a recipe! 3/4 cup of vodka and a 1/2 cup of vermouth. Jesus. I know the alcohol cooks out, but there was so much in here that I was certain one could get still get drunk from eating it. Not the case though. In fact, it tasted much like my favorite cocktail — the martini —but it wasn't overpowering.

Don't get me wrong: The alcohol taste is very prevalent. But it's actually a nice compliment to tangy, creamy tomato sauce. Pour (or um, plate) me another!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

I spent Mother's Day in Jonesboro, Arkansas with my favorite mamas!

From left to right, there's Granny (Daddy's mom), Me-Maw (Mama's mom), me, and my Mama.

Even though it was Mother's Day, my mom still volunteered to cook lunch. Usually, we go out to a restaurant on Mother's Day so nobody has to cook, but this time, she wanted to make spaghetti. She made spaghetti with meat sauce for the rest of the family, but she made me a special Vegan Spaghetti with Boca Meat Sauce:

This was so delicious. I rarely eat white pasta and white bread, but damn, they're so good. Especially when that white bread is coated with Earth Balance and garlic powder on both sides!

My mom also made a Garden Salad with Basil Vinaigrette:

Her basil vinaigrette is ridiculously delicious. I actually went back for seconds on my salad because it was so good. Who does that? Seconds of salad?

My Granny made a Strawberry Cake:

This tasted like strawberry shortcake!! The cake inside was yellow and moist, and it was covered with a yummy fresh strawberry glaze. And guess how she made it? Just cake mix (vegan-friendly, of course) and Sprite. That's it. She mixed the two together, baked it, and topped it with fresh strawberries. Amazing!!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hangover Omelet

Way back around Christmastime, my friend Shara gave me the ultimate vegan cookbook. It combines two of my favorite things: food and booze. But ever since, I've been so behind with reviewing cookbooks for the blog that I haven't had much time to cook from books that I wasn't sent for review purposes.

I finally got around to cracking open The Tipsy Vegan by John Schlimm. I'm not sure how I waited so long! Every recipe in this book has a dash (or a ton) of alcohol in it. Some are made with straight liquor, like vodka or rum. Others are made with the more modest cooking wines. Oh, and of course, there are recipes for actual cocktails too!

I decided to start with this Hangover Tofu Omelet with Sauteed Chopped Bell Pepper Filling:

Look inside!

I've certainly made prettier vegan omelets, but it's never really the recipe's fault. Every tofu omelet is unique. Sometimes they flip perfectly. Sometimes they don't ... just like egg-based omelets.

Where's the booze, you ask? This omelet contains Marsala cooking wine, so it was unlike any other tofu omelet I've tried. The wine added a sophisticated flavor that really took this breakfast to the next level. I can't wait to try the other boozy brunch recipes, like the blueberry-coconut muffins (with rum!) and the Party Monster Pancakes (with amaretto!).

The book is loaded (ha ha, get it ... loaded) with drunken fun. There's entrees, salads, soups, appetizers, and even desserts (margarita sorbet anyone?) spiked with alcohol. Oh, and each chapter starts off with a cocktail "to get you started." The Extra! Extra! Dirty-Hot Martini, made with jalapenos and their juice, is on my weekend to-do list for sure. And then I may need another Hangover Tofu Omelet the next day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Low and Slow

You know what I love? I love waking up to the smell of slow-simmered onions and spices. I love knowing at 8 a.m. that my dinner for that night is already cooked. I love throwing shit in a pot, clicking a switch, and calling it supper. And that's what you get in Carla Kelly's new cookbook, Quick and Easy Vegan Slow Cooking.

I was sent this book to review a few weeks back, but I wanted to try a couple of recipes before giving my full report. The book is loaded with all kinds of meals that can be cooked in a Crock Pot. We're not just talking soups and stews (although there are lots of those). There's an Asparagus and Pine Nut Risotto, a Tomato Salsa Pasta Bake, and a Not-Meat Loaf. There's even a whole chapter on Curries and Asian-Inspired Dishes!

My first meal from the book came from that chapter. I just couldn't resist trying the Soy Curl Vindaloo:

 I had a bag of Soy Curls and some red lentils in my cabinet just waiting for a good use. And girl was this ever a good use! The curry-spiced lentil and Soy Curl mash, served over brown rice, just melted in my mouth. I put the stuff in the Crock Pot at night, went to sleep, and woke to the heavenly smell of an Indian restaurant.

I used 3 cups of rehydrated Soy Curls instead of 3 cups of dry because the recipe didn't specify, but I did find that the dish had too much vegetable stock left in the morning. So I bet you're supposed to use dry Soy Curls. Quite frankly, I'm stingy with my Soy Curls since I have to order them, so if I made this again, I'd probably stick with the 3 cups of rehydrated curls and just add more lentils and less liquid. For this serving, I poured off some liquid, and it was perfect!

I had no problems whatsoever with this "Ham" & Pea Soup though:

 Green split peas are slow-simmered with a homemade smoked tofu "ham," and it's really out of this world. I may never eat split peas without tofu ham again! The tofu gets its smokiness from Liquid Smoke, it's saltiness from soy sauce, and that special brown sugar taste from maple syrup. Fabu!

I'll be making more from this book for sure. I think next I'll explore the Chilies and BBQ-Inspired Dishes chapter. There's a Maple-Infused Sausage Chili that sounds delightful, and a Coffee'd Tempeh Chili (made with espresso!) that I cannot wait to put in my mouth.

Besides the delicious recipes, perhaps one of the coolest features of the book is the Cooking Times List that lists every recipe according to how long it takes in the slow-cooker. You can flip back there and choose a recipe based on how much time you have. How cool is that? Got 3 hours? Make the Cheese-y Mac. How about 10 hours? Spiced Sweet Potato Satay is the way to go.

Carla's book is perfect for working ladies and dudes who just don't have a million years to slave away in the kitchen. And even for those lucky enough to be able to stay home all day and still pay the rent, you can use this book to get your butt out of the kitchen and into some fun. Go for a bike ride while your soup cooks or read a novel!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cinco de Mayo Picnic

Yea, yea. It's May 8th. But it's not too late to tell you what I did on May 5th, right? My bestie Nathan was in town from North Carolina, but I had to go to the Beale Street Music Festival at 4 p.m. So we planned a Mexican-themed noon-time picnic in Overton Park.

Here's me and Nathan at Rainbow Lake!

While we were there, lots of other people eager to see Nathan after his year-long absence from Memphis stopped by. I was the only one who brought food though. Luckily, there was plenty to share.

I made some Mexican Chicken — Lightlife Chick'n Smart Strips, sauteed bell peppers and onions, garlic and chili powder — to stuff inside tortillas. Dionne called it "trick-un" since it was made with fake chicken:

We wrapped the chicken in whole wheat tortillas with Rice Vegan Galaxy cheese slices and salsa. I also brought some Wholly Guacamole and Beanfield's Sea Salt Bean & Rice Chips. Even though none of the others at the picnic were vegetarian, they all loved the faux stuff!

While margaritas would have been the best choice, I didn't have time to make any homemade 'rita. So I brought along a bottle of Sangria and some ice:

It was a lovely way to celebrate the Mexican 5th of May!