Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pick-Up Stix

Anyone remember that game? Pick-up sticks? Yep, that shows my age. I was also fond of Barrel of Monkeys and Hungry, Hungry Hippo. Anyway, this post isn't about retro games. It's about my tasty new Cornmeal-Crusted Tofu Stix:

This is another recipe for my cookbook. Though I was tempted to fry these chicken-flavored tofu strips, I opted for baking so they'd be a little healthier. I'm sure they'd fry up really nice though. I'm trying to strike a good balance between fried food and healthier alternatives in my Southern vegan cookbook. I know the value of a battered, fried slab of tofu. Trust me, I live for the moments I can nosh on deep-fried goodness. But I have to watch my girlish figure, so some of my recipes are done up healthy-style.

These stix were fun finger food, and I tried dipping them in barbecue sauce, ketchup, maple-Dijon mustard, and marinara. Marinara was my fave.

I served the stix with my Dirty (South) Rice — also going in the cookbook:

It's a fusion of traditional dirty rice and classic Mexican rice. In case you don't know, dirty rice is a Cajun specialty typically made with chicken liver or giblets. Um, yuck. Mine is obviously giblet-free (what the hell is a giblet anyway?). But it has a little Cajun spicy kick.

Here's the whole plate:

In the far right corner is my Caramelized Brussels Pecan Saute, a cookbook recipe that still needs a little tweaking. Guess I've got lots more Brussels sprouts in my future.

On another note, Radioactive Vegan won the Etre the Cow novella giveaway. She had the first comment! For some reason, has been picking the low numbers lately. Congrats Radioactive Vegan.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tea Time

Okay, I'll admit it — I don't really like hot tea. I've tried and tried and tried to get into hot tea, but it always tastes like hot weak flavored water. I'm much more of a strong coffee girl. When I did a 26-day whole foods/low caffeine cleanse in January, I forced myself to switch out my morning java for hot tea, and my disdain for the flavored water only grew stronger when burnout kicked in.

So when Kungaloosh, a gourmet online tea company, asked me to review their products, I was more than a little hesitant. Thankfully, the company offers iced tea blends. And being the proper Southern girl I am, y'all know I like sweet iced tea.

Using a discount code, I shopped around the company's website and first chose this Mango Black Iced Tea:

Wow! Though I'm a fan of plain ole' pekoe, this tropical fruit tea really stepped up my iced tea game. Perfect for sippin' on the porch on a humid Memphis summer day. I sweetened the gallon with a generous squirt of agave instead of sugar.

I also picked out the Bella Coola Iced Tea:

The company's website describes this tea as a "fruit basket in a glass" and that sounds about right. The herbal tea has hints of tart berries, orange, apples, rosehips, and chicory. The only flaw — it's caffeine free. If I'd realized that, I wouldn't have chosen this tea. Despite the yummy flavor, teas and coffees free of caffeine are an abomination. Of course, this isn't Kungaloosh's fault. I should have realized that herbal teas don't contain caffeine. Duh.

Even though I'm not a fan of hot tea, I figured I should pick out a couple of smaller hot tea bags to provide a more rounded review. When I do drink hot tea, I prefer creamier, caffeinated black teas like chai. So this Karma Kream sounded right up my alley:

Karma Kream is their signature chai with Sri Lankan orange pekoe and a bevy of spices including cardamom, cloves, coriander, cumin seed, sweet cumin seeds, curry leaves, lemongrass, rampe leaves, cinnamon, and aniseed. Served with soymilk and agave, it was actually some of the tastiest hot tea I've ever had.

Sticking with my creamy tea safe-zone, I also picked out the Vanilla Cream tea:

Kungaloosh's website described the tea as tasting a little like French vanilla ice cream. And um, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, right? In fact, it did taste very vanilla-y, which made me very happy. I didn't even need to add soymilk to make it taste creamy.

Those were all my selections, but when my review package arrived, I found an extra free sample of Lizanne's Black Currant Tea:

Named for one of Kungaloosh's first customers, this decaf tea (yea, yea, I know ... but hey, it was a free surprise gift. I can't complain) has a hint of currant flavor without being too tart. Dolled up with a little soymilk (not pictured here), it wasn't so bad for a decaf hot tea.

Did Kungaloosh make me a hot tea convert? Not quite. But I do love their chai. And the iced teas — especially that mango — are worth ordering over and over again.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sarah Kramer Does It Again!

Not to get all gushy and vegan celeb-worship-y, but I love Sarah Kramer! My first vegan cookbook was Garden of Vegan, years before I actually went all the way with the dairy-free, egg-free purge. These days, Sarah's purdy face graces my kitchen wall in her 2010 Go Vegan wall calendar.

Each month features one delicious vegan recipe, and I'm cooking each month-by-month ... because I'm nerdy like that. April's installment is Matthew's Spicy Tomato, Peanut, and Kale Pasta:

I'm not sure who Matthew is, but he came up with a damn good pasta recipe. And easy as pie too. Actually easier than pie!

The sauce is made with canned tomato juice, peanut butter, and fresh local kale. Oh, and a little sriracha. That's it. I served the creamy, fiery sauce over whole wheat pasta shells and a small side salad made with local veggies from the farmer's market. Vegweb lists a version of the recipe here, though it's not exactly the same as the one listed in the calendar (for example, the Vegweb recipe calls for flax seed, but Sarah's does not). It's pretty close though.

If you haven't entered the Etre the Cow giveaway, it's not too late. Enter here. Contest ends Thursday at 10 a.m. CST.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mochi and Miso! Oh My!

My co-worker Pam loaned me her copy of Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source. It's appears to be a totally vegan cookbook, but author Terry Walters doesn't like labels. As far as I can tell, she only mentions the words "vegan" and "vegetarian" once in the intro where she explains that she doesn't like to name her diet.

And that's fine, but I prefer to shout my veganism from the rooftops. Vegan pride and all. I'm of the believe that the more vegans who proudly proclaim our compassionate lifestyle, the more accepted we shall be. Then again, I guess a book like Clean Food, a seasonal cookbook of simple meals prepared with seasonal, whole foods, may also appeal to non-vegans. And that's kinda sneaky. I like sneaky.

Nevertheless, I won't hold it against Walters for not making a big deal of the vegan thing. After all, she is the driving force behind these delicious Mochi Dumplings, a recipe listed in the book's Spring section:

Mochi may just be one of my favorite foods. It starts as a hard brown square of tightly pressed brown rice, but after a few minutes in the oven, it poofs up leaving a hollow inside that's perfect for stuffing stir-fried cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, and ginger. And I love mochi's chewy factor. The recipe also includes instructions for a simple dipping sauce of sesame oil, rice vinegar, and tamari.

I served my dumplings with a steamy bowl of Miso Soup:

Just my standard miso — one cubed square of Fumara Savory Baked Tofu (tastes like Chinese five-spice powder), a sliced carrot, a little napa cabbage, some green onion, a teaspoon of miso, and a generous squirt of sriracha.

I could be wrong, but I think this meal may have been totally, accidentally macrobiotic.

By the way, don't forget to enter the Etre the Cow book giveaway here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Etre the Cow: A Review (and a Giveaway)

I don't typically post book reviews for works of fiction. Since this is a food blog, I assume most readers would rather read cookbook reviews and drool over photos of sample dishes. But I'm making an exception for Etre the Cow by Sean Kenniff. That's because this powerful work of fiction has the potential to create more vegans and vegetarians for our revolution. World vegan takeover! Ha! Just kidding ... well, not really.

Vegan Crunk is just one of several blog stops on Kenniff's virtual book tour for Etre the Cow, a fictional account of life on a farm written from the perspective of a very perceptive bull. This short volume (just a little over 100 pages) begins with Etre, perhaps the most insightful cow at Gorwell Farm, feeling humiliated as humans taunt him with jeers of "Moo cow!" He's ashamed to be a beast, and try as he might, he can't seem to make the humans (or other cows) understand him.

Etre is a sentimental bull who takes solace from his boring pasture life in the songs of the farmer's little boy. Those songs seem to offer Etre's only distraction from chewing kale and grass. Written in a narrative first person style, Kenniff's book brings readers directly into the lonely mind of Etre. By mid-book, it's hard not to feel you're the cow, doomed to a life of chewing grasses and waiting for slaughter.

As expected, the book takes a dark turn when Etre finds himself on the line to be slaughtered. Thinking he's moving to a new pasture, Etre happily joins the line of cows in the chute, but as he approaches the slaughterhouse, the smell of blood and the sounds of tortured cows send him into a panic.

If I were an omni, this book would convince me to give up meat (or at least beef) immediately. Anyone who reads Kenniff's horrific description of the slaughterhouse assembly line will be moved. If you eat a burger after that, you obviously have no heart. Its easy for omnis to live in ignorance and denial, but books like Etre the Cow serve to open their eyes and hearts. At least that's the hope.

Etre the Cow is the perfect gift for a meat-eating friend or relative, but it's also important for vegans and vegetarians to read such books as a reminder of why we believe in practicing compassion for all living things.

A little trivia: The author, Sean Kenniff, was one of the original castaways on Survivor in 2000. In real life, Kenniff is a physician, radio host, and television journalist. Sadly, according to his bio, Kenniff is not a vegetarian. I'm not sure how someone can write such a compelling pro-veg work without being moved to give up meat. Maybe one day. Everyone comes around at a different pace.

The publisher, Health Communications, Inc., is offering to give away a book to a lucky commenter. If you're interested, leave a comment at the end of this post. They're limiting the contest to U.S. and Canadian residents only. Sorry international buds! The book is available on Amazon as well.

For an additional entry, tweet about this contest and link back to this post. Then leave another comment to let me know.

For another additional entry, mention this contest on Facebook with a link. Then leave yet another comment. Each entrant may leave up to three comments this way.

Note: If you do not have a blog, please leave your email address! I had to disqualify a few people in the last giveaway because I had no way to contact them. Good luck! I'll pick a winner at 10 a.m. CST on Thursday.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Breakfast Fiesta (and Two Winners!)

Let's get the important business out of the way first. Using's number generator, I chose two winners in the American Vegan Kitchen cookbook giveaway. And the winners are — Vegyogini of Hugger Food and Eric of Goodbye Texas, Hello PA.

I asked the entrants to name their favorite comfort food. Its seems Vegyogini relaxes with a slice of Ezekial toast spread with mustard. Eric prefers the vegan mac & cheese from Soul Vegetarian in Atlanta. Congrats guys! By the way, Vegyogini won when chose #2, so don't ever think being one of the first few commenters in a blog contest is bad luck.

Now onto the food. I adore all things tofu-eggy. Over the past couple of years, I've cooked quite a few tofu quiches and frittatas from various cookbooks, but I think I have a new fave — the Cast-Iron Skillet Frittata Mexicana from 500 Vegan Recipes:

The base is made from tofu and chickpea flour, giving it a very firm, egg-like texture. Before cooking I mixed in one diced chorizo sausage from Vegan Brunch (one I'd had frozen), some cilantro, local scallion from the Memphis Farmers Market, and some cumin. I served it with lots of hot sauce and some whole wheat toast spread with tomato marmalade.

The recipe actually provides three other variations. The Frittata Denver features bell peppers and vegan ham. The Frittata Mediterranean is spiced with fresh basil and sundried tomatoes, and the Frittata Loraine Americana combines bacon bits, spinach, and tomatoes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Chang's Bubble Tea

How have I lived 29 years without bubble tea?! Well, technically 28 years ... since I first tried the fruity tapioca-specked beverage last year. For the bubble tea virgins (lots of folks around here haven't heard of it): It's a like a slushee with large, chewy tapioca pearls that you suck up through an oversized straw. The Green Apple Pineapple Bubble Tea at Chang's Bubble Tea is the best:

Many of the fruit teas at Chang's are naturally vegan. Stay away from Chang's creamier teas, like coconut, avocado, chai, and even the almond milk tea — those contain dairy products. Don't worry though. There are loads of fruit flavors to choose from, and they can all be mixed together in endless combinations. Flavors include mango, peach, lychee, blueberry, pineapple, payaya ... the list goes on and on.

Whatever flavor you choose, the black "bubbles" at the bottom are the best part. Each sip ends with a chewy surprise, like a package of gummi bears found its way into the bottom of your smoothie.

Though Chang's serves plenty of vegan teas, they're a little lacking in vegetarian food options ... at least for an Asian restaurant. Several of their tofu dishes contain beef or chicken (what?!)! Makes no damn sense, I know. But there are a couple of veg options, like Curry Tofu, Vegetable Tofu, Vegetable Fried Rice, and Vietnamese Spring Rolls (my fave!).

On my last visit, I ordered the Curry Tofu:

This dish did not disappoint. Tender chunks of fried tofu are coated in just the right balance of curry and coconut. Potatoes, carrots, and celery round out the dish, and the mound of sticky white rice was sinfully delicious.

Conclusion: Go to Chang's for the bubble tea, not the food. But if that tapioca isn't enough to fill you up, at least there are a handful of meat-free options on the menu.

Chang's Bubble Tea is located at 8095 Macon Road. Here's their website.

P.S. Don't forget to enter my American Vegan Kitchen giveaway. I'll be choosing two random winners Thursday morning at 10 a.m. CST. I'll announce the winners on the blog tommorow night. U.S. residents only, please.

P.S.S. Liz from Cooking the Vegan Books is also hosting an American Vegan Kitchen giveaway, but hers is limited to non-U.S. citizens. So international vegan buds, click here to check it out.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Peanut Butter + Oats + Buttercream = True Love

I've been working on my Southern vegan cookbook for a few years now, and for some reason, I've saved the dessert development for last. I have plenty of recipes for the other sections (breakfasts, soups, entrees, etc.), but I'm still hard at work inventing new cookies, cakes, and pies.

My latest creation may be one of my favorites so far. Behold the Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cream Pie:

I knew I wanted an oatmeal cream pie recipe because that seems pretty darn Southern. And I'd been contemplating developing a peanut butter oatmeal cookie until a quick glance through the Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar index revealed that Isa and Terry had already tackled that one. I wanted to make something original.

And then it hit me. Why not combine the peanut butter oatmeal cookie idea with the cream pie? Amazingly, these came out pretty darn good on the first try. They were quickly gobbled up by my co-workers, but thankfully, I saved a few for myself at home.

Clarification: Just to be clear, I did not consult the recipe from VCIYCJ. In fact, I only saw it listed in the index. I used a non-vegan oatmeal cookie recipe, veganized it, added PB, and made a few other changes. I only looked through VCIYCJ to see if there was already a PB Oatmeal recipe. I know better than to try and improve on anything from Isa and Terry. :-)

Two announcements:
  • The Middle Tennessee State University Raiders Against Animal Cruelty has launched it's 2010 College Veg Pledge campaign. They're trying to get thousands of college students to sign up and pledge to try a vegetarian diet for the month of May. I'm not in college anymore, so I don't know a lot of students. But I'll bet some of you guys do! Sign up on the Veg Pledge website and spread the word.
  • Don't forget to enter my American Vegan Kitchen cookbook giveaway. I'll be choosing two lucky random winners on Thursday. Click here for details.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bagel Time

I've never been to New York. Not that I wouldn't love to go. But for some reason, I've never traveled to the Northeast. That means I've never had a real bagel. I've only had cheap imitations, mostly from the frozen food aisle. The occasional bakery bagel around here doesn't compare to a real NY bagel, I'm certain. But I trust that native New Yorker Isa Chanda Moskowitz knows how to make an authentic bagel, so when I want good bagels, I make her recipe from Vegan Brunch:

Granted, I sub out whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose in the recipe, and I'm sure that makes my version less than authentic. But they're still damn tasty. And chewy the way I imagine a proper bagel should be.

I ate these for breakfast all week last week. Made a big ole batch and froze half for thawing out each day. I served them with Isa's version of Vegetable Cream Cheese:

It's just Tofutti whipped up with diced celery, carrots, and red bell pepper. I topped each dressed bagel with a sprinkle of Cavendar's Greek Seasoning (because I LOVE this stuff!). Perfect weekday breakfast.

Now maybe someday I'll get a chance to travel to New York to compare. For now, Isa's bagels are the best I've had.

Don't forget to enter the American Vegan Kitchen cookbook giveaway. Click here for details!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

American Vegan Kitchen Giveaway!

Yep, that's right. I'm giving away two copies of Tamasin Noyes' awesome vegan comfort food cookbook American Vegan Kitchen.

Two reasons: 1) Noyes' debut book is filled with lip-smacking recipes for comfort food so comfy, it'll make you want to change into your PJs and settle into your ratty old sofa with a soft cat on your lap and steaming bowl of vegan eats in your hands. And 2) Because my daddy is the best dad a girl could ever ask for!

You see, my dad read my gushing reviews of Tami's book (from Vegan Appetite) a few weeks ago on this blog. Then he called me to ask if I'd like to give away a couple of copies if he ordered them from Amazon. Um, do vegans eat tofu? Of course I would! So daddy ordered a few copies, and I'm giving them away to two lucky random commenters on this post.

But first, I want to show y'all another reason why you need Tami's book. Just look at this hearty Seitan Goulash with Kraut over Parsleyed Noodles:

Like many recipes in Tami's book, this one starts with a base of homemade savory seitan cutlets. Sure, it's a little time-consuming to make your own seitan, but I promise it's more than worth it. I won't even buy that pre-packaged seitan anymore. Tami's seitan-makin' method is quite different from my own, in that hers involves browning the dough in a skillet and then roasting it in the oven. I typically use the boil-down-in-broth method. Now I love it prepared both ways, and I'm glad to be introduced to another method for making seitan.

The rest of the goulash combines tangy sauerkraut, diced tomatoes, carrots, and mushrooms. And the most important ingredient — beer (I used Sam Adams Boston Lager). The goulash is served atop simple whole wheat noodles adorned with parsley, soy margarine, and a wee bit of salt. A little dab of Tofutti sour cream on top, and you've got yourself one helluva meal. I ate the leftovers from last night's dinner tonight, and the hoppy beer flavor is even better the next day.

You can see this recipe and loads of other diner-style favorites (like Tempeh Stroganoff-Stuffed Potatoes, Sweet Garlicky Ribs, and Apple Butterscotch Pie) if you win American Vegan Kitchen.

Here's what you've gotta do: At the end of this post, leave me a comment letting me know your favorite comfort food. Be sure to include an email address if you don't have a blog that I can track you down on.

For extra entries, link to this contest on Facebook, and leave me an additional comment to let me know. Same thing goes for Twitter. Also, if you have a blog, mention and link back to this contest on your blog, and let me know in an additional comment. That means each person can have a maximum of four entries!

Also, sorry to all of my international friends, but I'll have to restrict the contest to U.S. residents only since my dad will be handling the shipping. Good luck! I'll leave the contest open until Thursday at 10 a.m. CST.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I Love Gardein!

I'm pretty cheap. Granted, I don't make that much working in the newspaper business, but I'm fairly certain I'd still be a frugalista if I had a million bucks. When I do splurge, it's generally on fancy vegan food items. I rarely buy clothes, shoes, or other necessities. Sometimes, I'm even too cheap to shell out a few extra bucks on faux meat like Gardein.

But after all the hype over Tal Ronnen's The Conscious Cook (a book I still don't have because I've been too cheap to buy it!) and his Gardein faux meat products, I finally broke down and spent the $4 on one package of Gardein Thai Trio.

The Thai Trio is a one-serving, chick'n breast stuffed with tomatoes, red peppers, and bamboo shoots. It comes with a creamy, coconut-spiced red Thai curry sauce and a generous portion of tender basmati rice. I was a little shocked at the tiny size of the chick'n breast. It's smaller than the palm of my hand, and I have small hands. But the texture was spot on. I suspect it's close enough to the texture of a real chicken breast to please an omni, but not close enough to be creepy.

I served my Thai Trio with steamed beets and spinach, which I doused liberally with Asian chili-garlic sauce after I snapped this picture. A quick, delicious week night meal. I've been a little pressed for time this week, which means less time for messin' around in the kitchen. Thankfully, the Gardein meal was ready in minutes. Definitely worth the $4. I think I'll stop being so cheap and start keeping this stuff on hand.

Have a great weekend, and be sure to come back on Sunday night for a super-awesome, surprise giveaway!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Brother Juniper's (and Ani DiFranco!)

I've posted about my favorite breakfast joint before, but now I'm doing so in an official "Bluff City Vegan Eats" post. But first let's back up to Tuesday night.

My BFF Sheridan (we've been best friends since 8th grade ... that's been, gosh, about 18 years!) and I went to see Ani DiFranco at the New Daisy on Beale Street Tuesday night. We saw her back in 1996 (during the Not a Pretty Girl/Little Plastic Castle days), and we were sooooo excited to see our favorite folky righteous babe again.

Ani was just as amazing as we expected, and I'm pretty sure Sheridan cried a little bit. Check out the matching Ani tees we bought at the show (and my pooch Datsun in the background):

I took a vacation day from work on Wednesday to spend time with Sheridan. She lives in Little Rock, and we don't each other often enough. We enjoyed a post-Ani brunch at Brother Juniper's, a quaint little breakfast joint in the University of Memphis area.

They have three tofu scrambles, but I'm only certain that one is vegan. That's the Fahim's Special with Home Fries, Wheat Toast, and Spreadable Fruit:

Now I've eaten a crap-ton of tofu scrambles in my day, but this one is my fave (I like it even better than my own go-to recipe). Tender crumbles of tofu are swimming in this amazing tangy shitake dressing, along with red and green bell pepper, portabella mushrooms, and kalamata olives. The home fries are perfectly seasoned and fried to a crisp, and the no-sugar-added blueberry and raspberry fruit spreads are out of this world good. They even sell their spreads online and in the store.

The other tofu scrambles are Tofu Veggie and Veggie Sausage. But the Tofu Veggie contains pesto, so I assume it isn't vegan. I once inquired about the vegan-ness of the Veggie Sausage scramble, and though my server told me it was vegan, I'm not so sure. The sausage used in the scramble tastes and feels like the non-vegan Morningstar Farms patties.

Brother Juniper's also provides vanilla soymilk for your coffee, which is served in the shop's eclectic collection of mugs that appear to have been acquired from garage sales and thrift stores.

Brother Juniper's is located at 3519 Walker. Go here to see their website and read about the restaurant's fun history (or to order some spreadable fruit!).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wrap Up

A few weeks ago, the folks at Tumaro's Tortillas sent me a few samples of their massive flavored tortilla wraps. Though I love a good sandwich, I'm a huge fan of the wrap. There's something about eating your sammich fillin's burrito-style that excites my inner-Mexican food lovin' child. And here lately, I've had trouble finding a decent wrap that isn't a) too small to hold all my fillin', b) loaded with white flour, or c) too healthy-tasting for its own good. A recent experience with Ezekial sprouted grain wraps left much to be desired.

Now, the Tumaro's Tortillas aren't perfect in the ingredient department. Some contain enriched bleached flour, partially hydrogenated oils, and other unpronounables. But at least the vegan flavors are clearly marked with a "V," and the chewy, soft texture is spot on. They come in 8" and 10" inch sizes, so they're certain to hold all your stuff.

My favorite flavor out of the three samples was the 10-inch Black Bean Wrap. I loved the dark color, and it was the perfect vessel for this Hummus Veggie Wrap:

I loaded the wrap with Cedar's Roasted Garlic and Chive Hummus, romaine lettuce, cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, green olives, and radish sprouts. And then I topped all that with spicy sriracha:

I also loved the 8-inch Multigrain Wrapable. It's advertised as "low in carbs," which I could care less about (carbs are fuel, people! eat them!). But it felt a little healthier thanks to the addition of oat fiber, soy flour, and whole wheat flour. I used the wrap for a quick Peanut Butter, Banana, and Agave Breakfast Wrap:

The other sample Tumaro sent was in a mysterious, clear plastic sealed bag with no label. I've tried emailing the nice lady who offered to send the samples to find out what the flavor is, but I haven't heard back. It looks (and tastes) a little like Whole Wheat, and they do offer a 10-inch whole wheat wrap ... so that's what I'll assume for now.

I used the mystery wrap for a gigantuan Brown Rice & TVP Burrito:

Brown rice, beefy-flavored TVP (a basic recipe from my cookbook), Daiya cheddar shreds, avocado, tomato, lettuce, and salsa. Mmmm ... wholesome and oh so filling!

Even though Tumaro's uses a few ingredients I'm not crazy about, I'd buy them anyway. Probably not all the time. But taste-wise and texture-wise, these are best wraps I've tried. Move over, Ezekial.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hungry Jill!

When I was a kid, my mom liked to make this delicious casserole recipe that she'd copied down from a Hungry Jack biscuit ad in a magazine. Melty cheddar cheese topped baked beans and browned hamburger meat, while Hungry Jack biscuits (cut into half-moon shapes) lined the sides of the casserole dish. As it baked, the biscuits would plump up, and I remember them tasting so flaky and delicious mixed in with bites of cheesy beans.

A couple years ago, I veganized that recipe for my cookbook. I'm calling it Hungry Jill Casserole, and I've blogged about it before. But I'm in the tweaking stage of my cookbook, working and re-working recipes to make sure they're where I want them to be. My Pyrex casserole dish looks a little funky here since the melted Daiya burned a bit on the sides:

But I can assure y'all it tasted delicious. This was the first time I made the dish using Daiya (last time, I used cheddar Teese), and the melty factor was way impressive. Daiya really does achieve that same stringy, melty quality of dairy cheese. And it really tastes like dairy cheese. In fact, the taste reminds me of the low-fat dairy cheese my mom used to buy in the 1980s.

My recipe relies on my own whole wheat butter-soymilk biscuits rather than the canned variety my mom used to make this dish when I was a kid. The homemade tender, flaky biscuits are the perfect complement to the tangy-sweet barbecue beans and faux cheese. Of course, the cheese is optional (as it is in most of my recipes) if you're not into vegan cheeses. But that's just crazy talk. :-)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Bhan Thai

I'm starting a new post series on veg options at Memphis restaurants. I've blogged about a few local vegan dining options in the past, but I've decided to start labeling them "Bluff City Vegan Eats" (fyi: Memphis is called the "Bluff City" because it sits on the Chickasaw Bluffs of the Mississippi River). And I'll start tagging these posts to make them easily searchable for veg visitors.

The "Bluff City Eats" series won't be posted with any regularity, just whenever I eat out and deem the meal worthy of sharing. Last night, my boyfriend and I had dinner at Bhan Thai, a hip Thai joint on the edge of Midtown (full disclosure: the boyfriend is a server there).

For the longest time, I avoided this place because I'd heard that all their dishes contained fish sauce, which is sadly the case for so many Thai restaurants. But now I have the inside scoop. Many dishes can be made vegan upon request, and the staff is uber-happy to accommodate. Last night, I ordered the Cashew Nut with Tofu:

A generous portion of firm, crispy cubes of fried tofu meet crunchy cashews, carrot strips, bell pepper, and onion in a spicy garlic sauce. The dish is served with sticky white rice, a delicious indulgence I only allow myself to eat when dining out.

I washed my dinner down with a Singha Thai beer:

I typically opt for darker brews, but there's just something magical about a pale ale served with Asian cuisine. Plus, I had to keep it real with an authentic Thai beer.

In the warm spring and summer days, scoring a seat on Bhan Thai's courtyard patio is a must. Unfortunately, the patio was closed Wednesday night due to an impending storm.

Bhan Thai is located 1324 Peabody Avenue in Memphis. Here's their website.

Note to vegans: Avoid the curries, as these cannot be made without fish sauce, and the soups are prepared with nasty chicken stock (I'll never understand why restaurants use chicken stock when they could use veggie stock to accommodate everyone). From what I've been told, almost everything else on the menu can be made vegan upon request.

One more thing: I've posted a Memphis vegan dining guide on the right side on the page, complete with a list of veg-friendly restaurants and my favorite suggested menu items.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rustic Pasta

Some recipes are so simple, you have to ask, "why didn't I think of that?" The Rustic Pasta from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet is one of those:

Admittedly, it isn't the most attractive dish, but I wish photos could convey flavor because this dish is packed with savory taste. Whole wheat spaghetti noodles are tossed with sauteed cabbage, onions, and celery seasoned with shoyu (I used soy sauce because I'm not fancy enough to buy shoyu) and a bit of marinara sauce. Though the recipe didn't call for it, I threw in some beefy-flavored textured vegetable protein (one of the basic faux meat recipes in my cookbook).

One thing I love about this recipe is its un-sauciness (yes, I made that word up). Though I love a good marinara, I've always preferred to have more noodles on my plate than sauce. When I was a little bitty kid, I ate my noodles sauce-less and simply covered in butter (a creation I dubbed "butter 'sketti"). Anyway, the recipe calls for six tablespoons of sauce. I actually upped it to a half-cup, and that was still a scant amount compared to the volume of noodles. I used the generic Whole Foods brand mushroom marinara, by the way.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cookie Crumble

Remember Cookie Crisp cereal? How genius was that? Tiny little chocolate chip cookie-shaped cereal bites just waitin' to be drowned in milk. I guess Kellogg's still makes Cookie Crisp, but I don't eat conventional sugary cereals anymore. Nothing against sugar in the morning, but I prefer my morning sweets made with unrefined sweeteners, like turbinado or agave.

But that doesn't mean I have to forgo cookies in my cereal bowl. This morning, I had a delicious bowl of Chocolate Almond Cookie Crumble Granola from 500 Vegan Recipes:

Semi-sweet chocolate meets raw almonds and raw sugar in these crunchy little granola bites. They really do taste like balls of cookie dough, but they're far superior to Kellogg's artificially-flavored cookie cereal.

Here's my granola swimming in unsweetened Silk soymilk:

500 Vegan Recipes by Celine Steen and Joni Newman is a massive volume. Since I read cookbooks front-to-back like novels, I'm still working my way through the breakfast chapter. But there are plenty of delicious morning recipes, including a ton of other granolas, to choose from. Eventually, I hope to make my way to the Faux Meats chapter. That's the one I'm most excited about.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Would You Like Fries with That?

There's loads of advantages to being vegan — we're generally healthier, more compassionate, and we have a greater variety of exotic and interesting foods to work with. But one of my absolute favorite reasons for being vegan is the variety of veggie burgers we can choose from!

Omnis have beef, turkey, bison, and maybe a few other choices. But we can make burgers from any combination of plant protein, beans, grains, and vegetables. Heck, there's over 50 different veggie burger recipes in Louise Hagler's Meatless Burgers, another fun title from the Farm's Book Publishing Company in Summertown, Tennessee. In case you've been living under a rock, Hagler is the vegan pioneer behind numerous old-school titles, like Tofu Cookery and the New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook.

With recipes divided by Bean & Grain Burgers, Soyfood Burgers, Vegetable Burgers, and Ethnic Burgers (think lentil-based Indian-spiced patties and Indonesian peanutty tofu burgers), it was hard to choose which recipe to try first. But I settled on the Beet Burger, a soft tofu and beet-based patty with a pink beefy hue:

I'd been craving beets lately, and though the exotic burgers sounded tempting, I couldn't resist an opportunity to sneak a serving of vegetables into my burger patty.

I served the burgers on Sweet Potato Buns, another recipe from the book. As you can see from the photo, the buns came out a little flat. I subbed whole wheat pastry flour for the AP flour in the recipe, and I've learned from past experience that pastry flour doesn't rise well with buns. Despite already knowing that, I still couldn't bring myself to use white flour. But they were very soft and tasty, nonetheless.

Not only does Hagler's book contain a motherlode of burger recipes, she also includes instructions for making side dishes, condiments, buns, and even milkshakes. I dressed the burger with Hagler's Tangy Tofu Salad Dressing, a lower-fat version of vegan mayo. The burger was made complete with a little Follow Your Heart vegan Cheddar, tomato, and lettuce.

On the side, I baked up some of Hagler's Oven-Roasted Potato Wedges:

These wedges of red potato and Yukon Golds were perfectly-spiced with plenty of onion and garlic powder, my two very favorite seasonings. I dipped them in liberal amounts of ketchup.

Of course, I couldn't resist rounding out this meal with one of Hagler's homemade vegan milkshakes. I opted for this creamy Banana Shake:

It's made from vanilla soy cream (I used So Delicious Fruit-Sweetened Vanilla), a frozen banana, and soymilk. That's it. Hagler includes a calorie count for every item (which I love because I'm a calorie counter ... blame that on my obsessive Type A personality), and the banana shake had the lowest count since the addition of a frozen banana cut down on the amount of ice cream needed to make this shake creamy and delicious.

With warm spring and summer days on the horizon, Hagler's book is the perfect seasonal guide to the quintessential American meal.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy 56th, Papa Crunk!

My awesome daddy turned 56 on Saturday! He's been on a diet for about a month or so, and he's lost about 13 pounds. Since he's been deprived lately of greasy foods, potato chips, white bread, and sugar, my mom and I gave him permission to totally blow his diet on his special day. I baked him this giant Peanut Butter Bomb Cupcake from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World:

It's almost as big as his head! I used the Big Top Cupcake silicone mold I got for Christmas. Since the top and bottom halves are made up of cake, it took three batches of chocolate cupcake batter to fill them up. I used two batches of peanut buttercream frosting for the top and to fill the inside of the cake.

When my parents and I visited New Orleans last October, we ate the world's best French Fry Po Boys from the Verti Mart Deli. My dad requested that my mom try to recreate the delicious "carb sandwich" (as we affectionately call them) for his birthday dinner. Here's mine deconstructed — steak fries, sauteed peppers & onions, ketchup, and melted Daiya vegan cheddar (an Easter gift from my parents):

We had our carb sandwiches with my mom's delicious homemade guacamole and blue corn chips:

We decided that my mom's version of the French Fry Po Boy was even better than the Verti Mart Deli's sandwich. Plus, when my mom makes 'em, I can add vegan cheese! I'm sure my dad gained a few pounds back on his birthday, but this meal was so delicious, it was totally worth it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Is for Artichokes

April means a lot of things — my dad's birthday, my boyfriend's birthday, Easter lilies, blooming dogwoods, the return of short-sleeve weather. But it also means the return of fresh, seasonal produce — namely asparagus and artichokes. Every spring, I try to cram as much asparagus in as possible, as I refuse to buy it out of season. But I typically only enjoy artichokes once or twice and that's enough to last me through the next year. They are a lot of work, after all.

Start by trimming the pointy little horns off all the leaves. Then lop a little off the top and whack off the stem.

This step isn't totally necessary, but the artichoke looks much fancier after a little groomin'. Rub the leaves with a half a cut lemon to prevent browning. Then you can either steam the artichoke in a steamer basket for about 45 minutes or steam it in the microwave for 20 minutes. Here's the freshly-steamed artichoke I ate for dinner tonight:

I prefer the stovetop steamer basket method, as it doesn't dry out the tops of the leaves. But sometimes, like tonight, you just don't want to wait 45 minutes to eat. Both methods make for super tender artichoke "meat."

To eat, just pull it apart leaf by leaf. Dip the white bottom part in a flavorful dip and scrap off the meat with your teeth. I served mine with two dips — Tangy Tofu Salad Dressing from Meatless Burgers by Louise Hagler (this is like a low-fat version of vegan mayo) and some Cedar's Roasted Garlic and Chive Hummus.

Keep a large bowl handy for discarding the inedible portion of the leaves. Once you work your way down past the leaves, remove the prickly hairs and indulge in the tender artichoke heart. I like to spread my artichoke heart with loads of dip and savor each bite.

Check out this link for an illustrated step-by-step guide to cooking and eating artichokes.