I've moved!

I've begun working on a comic/cookzine and have decided to lay this blog to rest. If your still interested in vegan foodz, I'll be writing at Food Stains, which will be mostly devoted to that zine. Vegan MoFo is upon us, so lookforward to plenty of foodie action. One word - SANDWICHES.

Thanks for the support over the last year, you've all made blogging a really positive experience for me. I hope to see you around Food Stains and on your own blogs :)




For the Love of Kale: Part I

The vegan overstatement of the decade: We Love Kale.

We love kale so much, t-shirts have been created to honor kale's superior live-saving superhero qualities! And everyone knows that if something's printed on a t-shirt, it is the truth.

Kale's easily my favorite leafy green vegetable and is chock full of some of the most beneficial vitamins and nutrients known to humanity: antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, beta carotene, vitamins C and K to name a few. Kale's bitter-sweet leaves fare well under an assortment of cooking techniques, making it the ideal addition to just about everything (except for cake, maybe); you can steam, saute, broil, braise, bake and blend it!

 Sweet Sesame-Miso Tofu with Sauteed Shiitakes and Kale

Kale doesn't have a regional preference, and works well in a wide range of foreign feasts. Why, just the other day I added Kale to my latest Asian-inspired meal! After sauteeing some juicy shiitake mushrooms, in went the kale with a couple of tablespoons of mushroom broth (or water) and on went the lid. In no time, the kale leaves were wilted without being mushy. They had absorbed a lot of the mushroom broth and juices, resulting in what can only be described as delicious.

Sweet Sesame-Miso Tofu with Sauteed Shiitakes and Kale
Serves 4

1 block extra firm tofu, pressed and sliced into large triangles
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons brown rice syrup
water for thinning, 1 teaspoon at a time
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 medium shiitake mushrooms, slices
1 medium bunch of kale (I used red Russian variety)
3 tablespoons mushroom broth, or water
cooked white or brown rice, enough for four (1/2 to 1 cup per person)

For the sauce:
1 cup water
3 tablespoons miso paste (I like red, but a mellower version would also work)
1 tablespoon soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sriracha or other hot chili sauce
2 teaspoons brown rice syrup
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

Mix the soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, brown rice syrup and water (if necessary) in a shallow dish. Place tofu slices in marinade and let absorb for atleast half an hour, flipping half way through. Once tofu is marinated, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add tofu. Cook for 7 minutes or until brown and lightly crispy. Flip tofu and cook another five minutes, until brown and crispy. Set aside.

Heat toasted sesame oil in a large non-stick skillet. Remove kale leaves from stems and roughly chop into bit-sized pieces, set aside. Chop kale stems into 1/4 inch pieces and add to hot oil. Sautee for 3 minutes, then add the garlic. Sautee for another minute, careful not to burn the garlic. Add the shiitake mushrooms, stir and allow to cook for about 5 more minutes. Once mushrooms are tender, add the kale and mushroom broth. Cover skillet with fitted lid and allow kale to steam for about 5 minutes.

In the meantime, add all the sauce ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Whisk constantly until sauce has thickened.

To plate, scoop rice into a wide bowl and top with vegetables and tofu. Drizzle as much sauce as you like and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.


VegNews does not deserve our support!

UPDATE: VegNews issued a second statement on Monday, April 18th. You can read it here. While I am not entirely pleased with their second response (and the fact that it took five days), I believe it is a step in the right direction. I'm pleased to discover their new photo policy will include actual photographs of the recipes they publish, and that all stock images used in the magazine and on the website will be vegan. This is what should have been issued on day one. There will never be any excuse for the unethical practices conducted by this publication, and no amount of 'apologies' will change what they have been doing for (presumably) a decade. However, my acceptance of their apology is accompanied by a great big "finally," rather than a "thank you."

I cannot stop thinking about THIS atrocity. On Thursday morning, Quarry Girl exposed me to one of the biggest blows veganism has seen: VegNews magazine/website have been passing off photos of MEAT/MURDER as vegan. They've been using stock photography of meat-laden dishes all over their magazine and website. They've been knowingly publishing photos of MEAT in a VEGAN magazine. And they don't feel they've done anything wrong, nor do they plan to change their actions or offer an apology to anyone. There are so many things wrong with this, I'm at a loss for where to begin. I'm saddened, infuriated and disgusted that a team of vegans so determined and committed to making veganism mainstream could even fathom that this would be OK.

Moreover, I'm utterly flabbergasted by their response to this. VegNews is not the victim here, yet they coyly try to explain otherwise. According to that press release, they've outlived most other independently published magazines by nearly a decade, have won major magazine rewards, are revered alongside Oprah and Martha Stewart AND reach more than one million viewers monthly...but they cannot afford to print/shoot/buy VEGAN food photography?! Excuse me, but there is no excuse for what they have been doing, and there is no excuse for continuing it. Just like their is no excuse for me to continue to support this organization. They've cheated us, lied to us, and have preyed/profited on our ethics and convictions. Please do yourself a favor and stop supporting an organization that is more concerned with profits, deadlines and "sit[ting] on the newsstand next to titles such as O, The Oprah Magazine and Martha Stewart Living."

If you care at all about honest journalism, upholding yours and others ethical convictions or veganism please write to vegnews@pcspublink.com or call 706-291-1546 (VegNews customer service) to express your disgust with their lies. They deserve to know that  they screwed up royally and that their actions and lack of self & customer respect will not be tolerated! Here is a tidbit of what I had to say:

Dear VegNews,

I wanted to inform you that I'm canceling my subscription to your magazine, news letters and recipes immediately. What you have done and your excuses for doing so are unacceptable to say the least, and utterly disgusting and unethical to say the most. Your preoccupation with profit and fame clearly outweigh providing an honest and dignified publication. You've compromised your journalistic integrity and editorial ethics. Almost every single recipe you've ever published has lost its credibility. I wanted to be sympathetic; I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt. I trusted you. But your unapologetic, apathetic attitude and excuse has infuriated me to no end. I’m through with you and will no longer support your magazine or website. 


Cookbook Challenge II - Viva Vegan!

Viva Vegan!

Growing up in south Florida, I've always had a penchant for Latin American food. Whether it was a crispy pressed Cubano eaten in a friend's car on the way home from school, a warm pot of Arroz con Pollo or a steaming cup of cafĂ© con leche to get my morning (or evening) started Latin American food permeated my childhood. When I went vegan (and left south Florida), I found it really difficult to find the same flavors, textures and tastes I had grown up loving, as Latin-American cuisine relies heavily on animal products, especially meat. Dinning out provided only slim pickings, as many obvious "vegetarian" dishes actually contained animal products - chicken stock in the rice, lard or pork in the beans, sour cream in the guacamole (now, that one is just an abomination!), etc. I sort of forgot about all the foods of my youth...that is, until Terry Hope Romero, co-author of Veganomicon & more, came out with Viva Vegan!

Curdito (Salvadorian Marinated Slaw), Yellow Rice with Garlic, Quick Red Posole with Beans

I'm a one-pot meal kind of gal, so the fact that I decided to make three separate dishes proves something about how exciting Viva Vegan! is. Earlier in the day I made Terry's Annatto-Infused Oil (aciete de achiote) which went into the Yellow Rice with Garlic. Like most cooking oils, the annatto oil will last forever, so don't worry about using it all right away. The Yellow Rice with Garlic brought back so many memories of the Vigo-brand bags of yellow rice my mom makes, and the oil lent such a bright and beautiful color! I topped the rice with a Quick Red Posole with Beans - which is actually a ritually significant and traditional stew in pre-Columbian Mexico. It mainly consists of stewed tomatoes, beans and hominy and was really comforting. I'm not crazy about tomato based things - soups, stews, sauces, etc. - but this was really nice over rice and with a few garnishments. To lighten things up, I made Curdito, a Salvadorian slaw. I loved this! It was super fresh, crisp and light. Dressed merely in vinegar (I used apple cider) and oregano, there is little to mask the sweetness of cabbage and carrots or heat from the jalapeno.


Empanadas are so wonderful! Who wouldn't love a warm, flaky hand pie full of savory goodies? These were ridiculously easy to make, as the dough was brought together using a food processor. After letting the dough rest for several hours, I made Terry's Creamy Corn-Filled Empanadas which were (unsurprisingly) awesome. My filling did appear to sink, or my dough rose too much while baking, hence the large gap in the photo below. When I make these again, I'll be sure to poke a few holes in the dough to allow all that steam an escape route.

Empanadas Humitas (Creamy Corn-Filled Empanadas)

Yellow Rice with Garlic, Caraotas (Venezuelan-style Black Beans), Latin Shredded Seitan

I think I made yellow rice about three times this week. Above it's topped with Caraotas (Venezuelan-style black beans) and Latin Shredded Seitan. The beans were wonderful with the addition of brown sugar - something I've never tried before, but will definitely add on a regular occasion. The Latin Shredded Seitan was made using Terry's Steamed Red Seitan recipe, red bell peppers and spices and completed the meal perfectly. Some of my seitan was a little undercooked to start, but it crisped up nicely in this recipe.

more Caraotas!

More Caraotas! Matt and I ate the leftover beans with two, yes TWO, green vegetables.

Swiss Chard with Raisins and Capers

Upfront we've got some Swiss Chard with Raisins and Capers. I wasn't sure whether I was going to love this dish, or hate it. I love raisins, capers and swiss chard, but would they all get along for my sake? They sure did! Sweet, tangy and earthy are a winning combination in my book. This recipe was also some of the prettiest greens I've eaten. In the background is a scoop of Brazilian Braised Collards (subbed in for kale). I liked the bitterness of the collards mixed with onion, garlic and a few splashed of liquid smoke, but next time I'll try this with kale.

We're coming to the end of the cookbook challenge! This was actually the last week of meals, as all that's left is a dessert cookbook - Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar! I'm  not sure if I'll  be thoroughly participating, but it's worth a shot!


Cookbook Challenge 2 - American Vegan Kitchen

This years Cookbook Challenge has been just that - a challenge. I decided not to participate officially in the last 3 or so weeks due in equal parts to not owning the designated cookbooks (Eat, Drink & be Vegan, 500 Vegan Recipes, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World - I actually have this one, but didn't have much time or money to make several batches of cupcakes), having too many leftovers from weeks past, traveling and hosting travelers and just good ol' fashioned laziness. The following dishes were actually from the challenge that took place two weeks ago, and I barely participated then. Yikes!

Anyway, last week I cooked from American Vegan Kitchen by Tamasin Noyes, founder of Vegan Appetite. I highly recommend this cookbook to anyone remotely interested in comfort food (I know what you're thinking -  there's food that isn't comforting?). Also interested in classic American foods of diners, delis, cafes or mom's kitchen? Then this is the cookbook for you! AVK is chock-full of rise-and-shine worthy breakfasts, hearty soups, filling salads, thick sandwiches, "meaty" blue plate specials and desserts right out of those classic glass cases seen in diners nationwide. It's a thoroughly enjoyable cookbook, full of nostalgia, colorful photos and promising recipes including donut bites, loaded potato skins, spinach dip, french onion soup, seitan po'boys, burgers, wheat-meat loaf, beer-battered onion rings, pies galore and SO SO SO much more - over 200 recipes! To be honest, I was a little intimated by this book. Everything looked absolutely amazing, and I had no idea where to start! I didn't make much (see aforementioned excuses), but what I did make was superb!

Salisbury-Style Seitan with Mushrooms and Mashed Potatoes with Homestyle Gravy

I started my week with a batch of Tami's Savory Seitan. It was one of the easiest seitan recipes I've ever attempted and the results couldn't have been better. There isn't anything unique about the recipe that I can pinpoint, but I don't think I've ever had such success with any cutlet-style seitan recipe. For anyone unfamiliar with seitan, it's basically a faux meat similar in taste and texture to chicken or thin steak (if you shape it accordingly) made  primarily of vital wheat gluten, broth and various seasonings. This recipe is of the boiled variety and is simmered in a bubbling bath of vegetable broth for about an hour. It was firm yet chewy and oh-so flavorful. I used the majority of the batch to make Tami's Salisbury-Style Seitan - a dish very close to home for me. I grew up eating a boxed frozen variety and loved it with mashed potatoes and corn. Here it is severed with a silky mushroom gravy full of diced onions, thyme and sage. Another winner and a gravy I'll make on a regular basis. I actually liked it better than the gravy that went with the mashed potatoes - yeah, I made two gravies that night. The Mashed Potatoes and Homestyle Gravy were super simple - it's pretty hard to mess up mashed potatoes - and the recipe wasn't anything spectacular. Mashed potatoes have always been one of those dishes for which I've never used a recipe. These were really creamy and the gravy was just OK.

All-American Incrediburgers with Cheezy Mayo

There was no way I was going to cook from AVK and not make one of Tami's burgers. This is the All-American Incrediburger and it was incre-delicious!! A simple mix of textured vegetable protein and vital wheat gluten, these burgers definitely captured that crumbliness of that typical type of burger made from ground-up cow flesh, but it doesn't contain any of the harm, death or guilt! I found it a little difficult to get all of the TVP to mix in with the seitan, but the majority of it stuck, resulting in a really hearty burger. After a quick steam, I opted to bake mine (Tami has instructions for baking, grilling and pan-frying) and dressed them with lettuce, tomato, red onion and Tami's Cheezy Mayo all between two whole wheat burger buns - store bought, but Tami does have a burger bun recipe! The Cheezy Mayo was really simple - vegenaise, mustard, nutritional yeast and a spoonful of white miso. When I'm craving burgers but don't want one ladden with chopped veggies or a slew of mashed beans, this will definitely be my go-to burger recipe.

Inside shot - All American Incrediburgers with Cheezy Mayo

I wanted to make so much more - Deli Reubenettes, Sweet Garlicky Ribz, Sweet and Crunchy French Toast, soft Roasted Garlic Pretzels, for example - and I fully intend to! Just not consecutively. These recipes may be delicious but they are a little to heavy for me to eat on a daily basis and rely primarily of faux meats like seitan. Albeit easy and cheap to make, seitan sometimes gives me ridiculous gas, probably because I eat too much of it! Instead of several more savory dishes, I opted for a decadent dessert that I'm still enjoying a week later.

Oh, what's that you say? Only one of the greatest pies on earth! That right there is the Crispy Bottom Peanut Butter Pie with Chocolate Fudge Sauce. Want to see it again? Ok!

Remember those Hershey's Sundae pies that Burger King sold? This recipe reminded me a lot of that dessert (something else that popped up in my childhood pretty regularly), but was actually much healthier (albiet not very healthy in and of itself). Tami's peanut butter pie combines puffed rice cereal in a dark chocolate sauce which is then frozen in a pie pan. Meanwhile, peanut butter and vegan cream cheese are whipped together until thoroughly combined and spiced up with some agave nectar, fresh lemon juice and vanilla extract. It's essentially a less cheesy peanut butter cheesecake filling that is poured on a crispy chocolate crust. A chocolate fudge sauce ties everything together for one mouthwateringly scrumptious dessert that requires no baking - which makes it perfect for the upcoming summer months. Just stick it in the freezer for a few hours and you're ready to serve! I've stored mine in the icebox for over a week and it still tastes great.

Since we cooked traditional north American favorites last week, it only seems appropriate that we explore the vegan cuisine of our southern neighbors. Next week I'll be cooking from Viva Vegan! from best-selling author Terry Hope Romero. Anyone at all familiar with vegan cookbooks will recognize her name and adorable face from such works as Veganomicon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar (not to mention The PPK!). I can't wait for a week of empanadas, arepas, rice and beans and maybe even a successful vegan flan!


Cookbook Challenge 2 - Vegan with a Vengeance

Cookbook Challenge II - Vegan with a Vengeance

This is the book that started it all! As the humorous and heartfelt introduction points out, Vegan with a Vengeance is Isa Chandra Moskowitz's first cookbook. The tangible product of her veganness and public access cooking show (The Post Punk Kitchen - some episodes are still available here), Vegan with a Vengeance is a compilation of recipes developed over a decade, and it is full of veganized classics - - and utterly unique creations. It's really fun to read (yes, I read cookbooks) and Isa's got a great attitude and perspective that reflects much of what I also value - compassionate cooking, feeding good food to your friends, loving all animals and loud punk music.

This week, like prior weeks, I sought to test out recipes I'd never made before. I've cooked my way through about half of this book, so the pickins were still plentiful.

Baking Powder Biscuits with White Bean Tempeh Sausage Gravy

Last Sunday's breakfast was unexpectedly easy to make, and was made up entirely of pantry staples (if tempeh isn't a "pantry staple" for you, I think you need to reevaluate your life). The White Bean and Tempeh Sausage Gravy combined crumbled tempeh with warming herbs - dried rubbed sage, crushed fennel seeds, a small sprig of thyme and a dash of oregano - and pureed white beans to create a thick and velveteen gravy akin to what any Southern grandma would serve with homemade biscuits. Oh wait, I did that, too! The Baking Powder Biscuits are the other half to this harmonious love story of a breakfast. They were flaky and buttery to the point of perfection, and not at all sticky! Biscuits in generally are so easy to make, but often leave you with clumps of dough stuck between your fingers - well, not these babies! They were some of the easiest I've made, ever. 

Banana-Pecan Pancakes
Contrary to those breezy biscuits, only once have I ever made a perfect vegan pancake (most of my love&devotion are reserved for waffles, anyway). It was so long ago that I hardly remember the recipe, or from where it originated. Most likely it was my own interpretation of one of the many pancake recipes recipes found of Vegweb.com. Why are pancakes so difficult, you wonder? I haven't the slightest clue! Mine have always burned to easily, been too runny, or tasted slightly chalky. Ignoring my inner thoughts and warnings, I decided to give the Banana-Pecan Pancakes a shot because I had all of the ingredients on hand, and I was intrigued by the thicker-than-you-average-pancake introduction. Oh, these were thick all right - almost like eating a cake. 

Banana-Pecan Pancakes

Thick, dense and moist, these pancakes weren't terrible. The flavors were perfect and the texture would have been wonderful...if I didn't have frantic and finicky stove top burners! Canola spray oil should not smoke on medium-low, right? Well my pan was smoking in a matter of minutes - so much that I had to change pans half way through because it was taking too long to cool down. The recipe suggests medium-high heat, but that was clearly not an option. As a result, my p-cakes were nearly burnt on the outside and wet on the inside, but my immaculate photography skills had you thinking otherwise...right? Overall, the recipe will receive a positive review, because I can't pass my poorly executed pancakes off as a recipe problem. Next time, I'll probably just make waffles.

Fettuccine Alfreda

A recipe that has always called out to me is the Fettuccine Alfreda. I thought this was really tasty, albeit nothing to write home about. In the recipe introduction, Isa warns that this isn't exactly like the alfredo found in Italian restaurants & pizzerias, but more like a spur-of-the-moment creamy pasta dish resulting from the ingredients she possessed on hand - mainly nutritional yeast and pine nuts. There was too much nutritional yeast for my preferences and I couldn't get over the fact that it wasn't vegan fettuccine alfredo in the aforementioned restaurant style. It almost reminded me of macaroni and cheese cheese sauce (kind of American/cheddar-y), but much more mellow, which I did enjoy. It was really thick for me so I thinned it with pasta water. Also, pine nuts are waaaay to expensive to use on a sub par sauce (roughly $30/lb here!), so if I were to make this again, I will most certainly sub cashews for pine nuts, cut back on the nooch and add a little bit of unsweetened almond milk...and probably a dollop of earth balance for good measure.

White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup

This was fantastic! The White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup from Vegan with a Vengeance is criminal. The soup was alarmingly easy to make, but the final flavor profile blew me away. Two words: roasted garlic. Two whole bulbs cloaked in olive oil roasted for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees until they were a mellow paste encapsulated in their shell. Just thinking about them has my mouth watering! They were combined with creamy canellini beans (any white bean will do), sauteed onions, earthy spices - fennel, thyme, oregano - and pureed into a thick soup perfect for rain or snow or whenever! I left about one ladle's worth of soup whole, which for me was a good thing; a few chunky beans and garlic cloves here and there are definitely welcome. This was perfect for the recent dip in temperatures (Louisiana had freezing rain!). We dipped the leftover Baking Powder Biscuits in the soup and ate just about the entire pot - yes, there were only two of us...

Brooklyn Pad Thai

Never having had Pad Thai from Thailand, I'm ok with this version reining from New York. Brooklyn Pad Thai tasted almost like what I've eaten numerous times at Thai/Fusion restaurants, and Matt (a man obsessed with all things Pad Thai) gave it two thumbs up. Rice noodles are so easy to work with, and this recipe really comes together in a sinch. Just make sure to use a large sauteing vessel - preferably a wok with high sides. I didn't, so it was a bit of a mess for me. If you chop all your vegetables beforehand, the meal is ready in less than 20 minutes (10 of which are reserved for cooking the rice noodles!). The sauce was a little spicy for me, so I'll be sure to reduce the amount of chili sauce (I used Sriracha) next time. I also had to omit the bean sprouts because I forgot about them on my grocery run (lemongrass, too!). Considering my minor changes and omissions, this was really good. Full of flavor and easy enough to make on a weeknight, but only if Matt will agree to clean up afterwards!


Cookbook Challenge 2 - Urban Vegan

This week's challenge feature a cookbook with which I am unaccustomed. Oh, I've previously browsed Dynise Balcavage's blog, Urban Vegan, but I've never really followed one of her recipes before. I've only had this cookbook in my possession for about a month, and the spine is still stiff. That's not to say I'm uninterested in her recipes, it's quite the opposite actually. I'd dare to say I'm intimated by them! Her recipes are well-traveled and intelligent, mimicking the sophisticated versatility and variety of urban life. And I only ended up making one thing all week.

Due in equal parts to the mound of leftovers in the fridge, my failed attempt at grocery shopping and a general lack-o-time, I barely explored all of the potentially decadent recipes at my disposal. I did, however, LOVE the one meal I made in the middle of the week. 

Cashew Curry Casserole

Matt and I love all things curry, and we weren't feeling too experimental this week, so we went with something we knew we'd love. The Cashew Curry Casserole took 15 minutes to prep and 45 minutes to bake. That is my ideal weeknight meal scenario; it's just enough time to play with and feed the puppies, have a beer or two and decide what movie we're going to watch. By 7PM the timer was buzzing and  the scent warm aromatic curry filled the air. What could be more comfortable on a rainy weeknight than that?

This casserole consisted of chickpeas, broccoli, and tomatoes all tossed in a cashew butter & almond milk mixture. Red Thai curry paste was dissolved in the liquid, and I upped the spices to include crushed red pepper, cumin and oregano. A dollop of tomato paste was adjusted into the recipe, and I follow Dynise's suggestion to add sliced mushrooms and red bell pepper strips. This casserole was fantastically comforting and contained most of my favorite food items. We served it with some Thai jasmine rice and a sprinkle of cashew pieces. The leftovers tasted great the next day.


Cookbook Challenge 2 - Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook

Cookbook Challenge II - VEGANOMICON!!!

For the second week of CCII, one of the most widely known and well revered vegan cookbooks made its way into my kitchen. Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook is what I like to call the rebellious younger sister to Irma Rombauer's The Joy of Cooking. Moskowitz and Romero of The Post Punk Kitchen have at it in this all-encompassing, over-achieving bookshelf staple. With nearly 50 pages devoted to kitchen gadgets, stocking the vegan pantry and vegetable/grain/bean cooking how-to's, this truly is the ultimate vegan cookbook. Oh, the 250+ vegan recipes might also have something to do with it.

Upon it's publication, I remember hanging out at the local bookstore while I waited for my then-boyfriend to get out of work. I'd pick up a copy of Veganomicon and read it, cover-to-cover, but never had enough money in my pocket to help me bring a copy home (bah, unemployment!). Eventually I saved up enough quarters and it was aaaallll mine. Since then, I've discovered some of my favorite meals and have made them repetitiously. Though to be honest, I've only made a handful of the recipes in this book because the first ones I tried were so amazing, and I never saw the need to try something new! Well, that changed this week. I selected three recipes I've never tried, but were well received within the vegan (and omnivorous) community!

Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Mango Peaches

I'm a huge fan of grain & bean salads. They're more filling and add a lot of depth and flavor to the monotonous leafy green salad. When I saw the recipe for the Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Mango, I was hooked. I ended up subbing the mango with defrosted peaches (from this past summer - so sweet and juicy!) and unfortunately had to omit the fresh cilantro as a result of absent-minded grocery shopping. The salad had every sort of sensation your mouth could fathom without being overwhelming. Sweet and savory are a wonderful pairing; here they are harmoniously tied with rice vinegar, grapeseed oil (I used olive) and salt for a hearty combination of soft, crunchy, sweet, and salty.

Corn and Edamame-Sesame Salad

In an effort to juxtapose my gluttonous eating of prior days, I opted for another wholesome salad. The Corn and Edamame-Sesame Salad was ridiculously easy to make and kept me full for hours. Edamame is loaded with protein and is ready to eat in under a minute - buy it shelled and frozen for those nights when you only have time to boil water! The dressing is a nutty and salty combination of sesame oil, rice vinegar and tamari (or soy sauce), all of which are relatively inexpensive (considering how little is used per serving in most recipes), especially at Asian markets. I added diced red onion and shared this with some new friends at a vegan potluck! It keeps well and is great served cold or at room temperature - perfect for traveling, picnics or workday lunches.

The final recipe that I selected is one of Veganomicon's most famous; Chickpea Cutlets have been popping up all over the vegan blogosphere since the book's release. I have no good excuse for not making them until now, so I won't even waste your time. They were as wonderful as I anticipated.

Chickpea Cutlets, mashed sweet potatoes, steamed green beans

Now that is my kind of meat-and-potatoes dinner. Not the traditional typical American meal, but so much more flavorful than any I've ever had. The chickpea cutlets were very "meaty" due to the vital wheat gluten - a natural protein found in wheat used to improve the texture and elasticity of bread, also the main ingredient in seitan - and packed with fiber AND flavor (who knew?!). I opted for the baked method instead of pan-frying to cut out some fat. These were wonderful and my only complaint is that I didn't triple the recipe. The firm yet moist cutlets were perfectly crispy and had a really robust flavor. They were mellow enough to be served in a myriad of ways - my next batch will be devoted to a vegan Po'boy and I'll season it appropriately (Matt said so). I served this batch with steamed green beans and Indian mashed sweet potatoes - made Indian by the leftover  dal saag (lentil/spinach dish) from a friend's birthday dinner.

Three more recipes down, and I've barely unearthed the magnificence that is the ultimate vegan cookbook - Veganomicon. Tune in next week for the third installment of CCII - The Urban Vegan: 250 Simple, Sumptuous Recipes, From Street Cart Favorites to Haute Cuisine.


Holiday in South Florida

I'm taking a quick detour from my very active participation in this year's Cookbook Challenge. Over the winter holidays I visited friends and family in my Florida hometown, Fort Lauderdale. In addition to sleeping in for an entire week (!!), I wined and dined at one of the finest vegan dining establishments on the east coast. Sublime Restaurant and Bar is located in downtown Fort Lauderdale and features an all-vegan fancy-foods menu! The owner, Nanci Alexander, is also the founder of ARFF (Animal Rights Foundation of Florida) and 100% of the restaurant's profits are donated to organizations set on reducing animal cruelty and promoting a vegan lifestyle. It also doesn't hurt that all of their food is absolutely delicious.

Matt and I started with two appetizers (they were having an anniversary special - all appetizers were only $4!). The Crispy Eggplant Rollatini was perfectly proportioned and the vegan ricotta couldn't have been creamier. I'm usually skeptical about ordering dairy analogues at restaurants, especially ones that are house-made, but I'm glad I did in this instance. Below, our second appetizer is one that can't be missed. I've ordered it every time I went to Sublime and it keeps getting better and better. The Frito Misto consists of battered and lightly fried cauliflower florets covered in a sweet chili sauce and topped with black-and-white sesame seeds and a spring onion garnish. M-O-U-T-H-P-A-R-T-Y. Just writing about this dish has me yearning to recreate it. I know what my weekend project will be...

If you are intrigued at all by the appetizers, you must stay for dinner. The menu at Sublime is really diverse, featuring salads, sushi, brick oven pizza, an array of entrees and mouthwatering desserts. Matt ordered the Mushroom Ravioli for dinner and I was utterly speechless after my first bite. The pasta was made in-house and if that was any indication of fresh pasta, I'm seriously missing out. It was soft, silky, creamy, sexy yummy goodness. The filling was excellent as well, but they could have served just me plain noodles and I wouldn't have complained.

My entree was almost as delicious (maybe if it had been wrapped in ravioli noodles...) but still very enjoyable. The Sublime Picatta consisted of Gardein cutlets, mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus and a lemon caper sauce. I've only ever tried the chicken-style Crispy Tenders, but I've heard really good things about Gardein brand meat analogues so I decided to give it a whirl. The taste and texture were pleasurable, but anything covered in lemon caper sauce would taste good to me. I was mostly surprised by how they found such thick asparagus!

Let the verdict show that vegan gourmet is entirely possible, and insanely delicious. If you're ever in south Florida, support this vegan establishment!


Cookbook Challenge 2 - Appetite for Reduction

Lately I've been craving the lightly prepared stong aromatic dishes native to Thailand. For my birthday, Matt and I ate at Rama Restaurant, a whole-in-the-wall  serving up some of the finest Thai food (as far as I know) in Baton Rouge. The slow service was easily overshadowed by the fragrant and spicy meals we ordered. Fried veggies - eggplant, yams, green peppers, green beans, potatoes, onions - with sweet and sour sauce (not exactly authentic, I know) stimulated our tastebuds and appetites for two tasty, albeit oily, Thai entrees.

cellphone porn!
left to right: veggie pad thai, panang tofu, fried veggies

Matt ordered the Veggie Pad Thai sans egg as usual. This fish-free variation was so light and fresh, we damn near inhaled the entire plate (by the way, the portion-to-prices ratio at Rama is amazing; two people could easily share one plate..unless you're either one of us)! Any extra room in our mouths and bellies was quickly filled with my entree, Panang Tofu. Green beans and mushrooms were the main contenders in this warm and spicy coconut curry dish, along with copious amounts of fried tofu! So...Thai food...isn't it amazing? Yeah, I know; I know.

Cookbook Challenge II - Appetite for Reduction

My greatest qualm with dining out, especially at Asian/Indian establishments, is the amount of oil used by the restaurant chefs. I can't consciously dine out often for this reason alone. It's a bittersweet scenario, actually. The openhanded oil applications force me to make my own renditions of these aromatic appetizers, and while they may not be authentic, they are certainly satisfying.

This is where Appetite for Reduction is plugged in. As I flipped through the already slightly tarnished pages (I'm a bit of a messy cook...) I noted several Thai-inspired recipes that I would have to make. The first thing to catch my eye was the Pad Thai salad with Peanut-Lime Dragon Dressing. The dressing was a sweet, spicy and tangy combination of ground peanuts (for which I substituted crunchy peanut butter), sriracha, lime juice and a few other things I'll just call delicious. I added sauteed tempeh cooked with tamari (a great gluten-free alternative to soy sauce) and omitted the red onion because I didn't have one.

Pad Thai Salad and Crispy Tamari Tempeh with Peanut-Lime Dragon Dressing
Did I mention that AFR has an entire chapter devoted to bowls (and sandwiches, but they deserve their own thrown)?! Using the remaining Peanut-Lime Dragon dressing, I made the Peanut-Lime Tempeh Bowl, which consisted of fluffy quinoa, steamed broccoli, more tamari tempeh and the dressing. I jazzes it up with sauteed bean sprouts and alfafa sprouts for an amazingly filling and insanely delicious dinner.

Peanut-Lime Tempeh Bowl
This next Thai-inspired dish was featured in my post about tofu, but who's going to argue with me? I think it deserves another fifteen minutes of fame. Ladies and gentlemen, Red Thai Tofu...

Red Thai Tofu and Green Beans with (not) Thai Basil
No, I didn't use Thai basil, and I thought of adding fennel or dried mint to give it the cool depth I notice in Thai basil, but I didn't want to stray too far from the actual recipe. Crispy tofu, spicy red Thai curry, sriracha, ginger and garlic all go great together. Add some sauteed green beans dusted with red pepper flakes and a squirt of lime and you're in business. I have no negative critique other than I wish I had more, and right now please.

In fact, I think I need to go pick up some tofu and lock myself in the kitchen. Until next time...