Monday, May 31, 2010

Tofu Is the New Steak

Beef steak is gross. Bloody, nasty, rotting meat. How can anyone cut into a still-pink steak and not make the connection that some precious creature had to die for some selfish human's 15 minutes (or less) of pleasure? I don't understand that.

What I do understand is the sheer awesomeness of tofu. I like my 'fu all kinds of ways — marinated and baked, frozen and thawed, deep-fried, sauteed, and even cold and plain. But my new favorite tofu comes in the form of Helen's Kitchen TofuSteak.

I recently received some coupons for a couple of Helen's Kitchen products, which I'd seen next to the veggie burgers at Whole Foods but passed up buying because I'm cheap. Now that I've had a chance to try the stuff for free, I won't be such a tightwad. I don't know who Helen is, but that lady makes some serious magic in her kitchen.

The square GardenSteak flavor TofuSteaks come four to a box and only consist of a few ingredients, but it must be the mysterious "garden mix" (listed only as yeast extract, natural flavor, and salt) that gives these little guys the best flavor I've ever tasted on a bun. Notes of celery, garlic, onion, and carrots are evident, but there's something else I can't even explain. Since the tofu is frozen, it has that great "meaty" texture. I tried my first TofuSteak on a Rudi's Organics Whole Wheat Bun with Daiya Cheddar Shreds:

Better than a veggie burger, swear to god. The back of the GardenSteak box also suggests using the patties in roasted red pepper & avocado sandwiches, spicy enchiladas, and basil pesto farfelle. I've yet to try those applications, but I'm certain they wouldn't disappoint.

Since the company sent me two coupons for products of my choice, I used the other one to try a Helen's Kitchen frozen TV dinner. The only vegan flavor available at the Memphis Whole Foods is the Thai Yellow Curry, though other vegan entrees are sold elsewhere.

Chopped TofuSteaks, broccoli, and red bell pepper are covered in a creamy coconut curry sauce and served alongside white basmati rice:

The chopped "steak" was so delicious paired with the curry sauce, but like most TV dinners, the serving size was a little too small to satisfy my inner fat ass. I solved the food shortage issue by pairing the frozen meal with a side salad with a homemade sesame-chili vinaigrette.

Conclusion? Nobody has any reason to kill a cute little cow when they can have a Helen's Kitchen TofuSteak instead.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Almost Philly Cheeze Steak

Honestly, I've never had a real Philly cheese steak sandwich. So this Almost Philly Cheese Steak (that's the name of the recipe) from American Vegan Kitchen was more than almost a cheese steak to me:

Tami's tender Savory Seitan steaks are sliced and fried up with bell pepper and mushroom. That's topped with Daiya cheddar shreds, tomato, cucumber, homemade pickles, lettuce, and Vegenaise.

The seitan was leftover from making Tami's Seitan Goulash with Kraut last month. I had half a batch of her yummy baked seitan filets left, so I froze them for another recipe. The seitan is a little labor-intensive, but having a batch in the freezer made these cheese steaks a breeze.

On another note, Chocolate-Covered Katie is having an Artisana Coconut Butter giveaway (and she's including Cacao Bliss and coconut oil!). Go there and find out how to win!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cruciferous Veggie Love

On Sunday night, dinner featured a cruciferous veggie entree served with a cruciferous veggie side. I didn't really mean to get all crazy with the Brassicacae family of vegetables. It just kinda happened.

My boyfriend rarely eats the vegan food I make because, as I mentioned before, he has horrible taste. However, when I made the Stuffed Cabbage from More Fabulous Beans on New Year's Day this year, he insisted that I make the recipe again and again. I'm just now getting around to that.

These cabbage rolls (from Barb Bloomfield's awesome vegan bean book) are stuffed with a seasoned mix of black-eyed peas and brown rice. They're topped with an Italian-spiced marinara and baked in the oven.

On the side, I served up some fresh steamed broccoli from the Memphis Farmers Market:

That sexy-lookin' cheese sauce is melted Creamy Cheddar Teese (yes, Teese still has a place in this Daiya world we live in!).

Since crucifers tend to be high in vitamin C, soluble fiber, and nutrients with cancer-fighting properties, I felt pretty healthy after downing this meal.

On another note: Commenter Hannah noticed my mistake in yesterday's Starbucks post. I said I had an Extra Coffee Light Frappucino, and then I said light frapps were not vegan. Silly me! I didn't actually have a light frapp. I had the Extra Coffee Caramel Frappucino with soy milk, no whip, and no caramel drizzle. Sorry for any confusion. Good eye, Hannah!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Vegan Frappucinos!

I'm sure I'm the last to know, but I just found out that Starbucks now has vegan-freakin' Frappucinos! Do what?! Yes, that's right. A whole new world has opened up for me.

Photo from Flickr: Ilovemypit

I made the discovery last night (despite a post by Quarrygirl about vegan frapps in April) after I downloaded the latest version of Vegan Express on my iPhone. Vegan Express is the awesome app that lists vegan options at major fast food and corporate restaurant chains, and the new version lists all the new vegan frapps! Disclaimer: Although I've tried to resist the corporate evil of Starbucks, I cannot resist the deliciousness of a creamy Starbucks soy latte. I promise to purchase a cup of coffee from a local shop for every Starbucks beverage I indulge in.

Before, Starbucks used a Frappucino base that contained dairy, but the new "However-You-Want-It-Frappucino" can be made with soymilk. Be sure to clarify "no whip" and in some cases "no caramel drizzle" when ordering.

Lucky for me, I had a business appointment this morning at a Starbucks in Midtown, so I ordered my very first Frappucino. I felt so 1996! I never tried a frapp in my dairy days since my hometown didn't have a Starbucks. I went with the new Extra Coffee Caramel Soy Frappucino with no whip and no caramel drizzle. You have to clarify no whip or caramel to make them vegan, by the way.

For years, I've experienced frapp envy every time the boyfriend orders a Venti Java Chip Frappucino, and although that flavor still isn't dairy-free, I now have a whole menu of vegan frapps to choose from. Veganizable flavors include coffee, caramel (without the topping), extra coffee caramel (without topping), mocha, caffe vanilla, green tea, chai, strawberries and creme, and vanilla bean creme. The Light Frappucinos are NOT VEGAN.

My morning frapp was everything I dreamed it would be. Goodbye iced latte. Hello Soy Frappucino.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Skillet Breakfast

There's something about a breakfast recipe with the term "skillet" in the title that evokes warm, fuzzy memories of late, late nights at the Waffle House. You know those nights ... when you're still up at 3 a.m. and you have an intense craving for the world's greasiest hash browns. Those late-night gorging sessions are always followed by a morning of regret.

But this Country Skillet recipe from American Vegan Kitchen leaves nothing to be regretted:

In fact, you can even eat this as the first meal of the day without spending the rest of the morning feeling like a beached whale. It's like a glorified tofu scramble with fried potatoes, Swiss chard, vegan sausage (I chopped up a Tofurkey Beer Brat), and mushrooms.

Perfectly filling with plenty of protein, veggies (even greens!), and carbs (thanks to those taters). I served the skillet scramble with a slice of Rudi's Organics 7 Grain bread spread with Earth Balance and homemade strawberry jam.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Baby Shower That Didn't Suck

I'm no fan of babies. I prefer kittens and puppies. But I'm pretty sure my friend Stephanie's (a.k.a. Poopie Bitch) vegan baby will be pretty cool. Vegan babies are way better than the regular kind. Since she's having a cool baby, I hosted a baby shower at my house on Saturday. I cross-stitched a piece that expressed exactly how I feel about babies:

Although Stephanie can't drink right now, I wasn't about to throw a party without booze. All of us non-preggo folks sipped on these Baby Aspirin cocktails (coconut rum, triple sec, grenadine, orange juice and pineapple juice):

We also snacked on some delicious Edammame Hummus with pita chips:

This recipe is featured for May in Sarah Kramer's Go Vegan 2010 wall calendar. But it can also be found in La Dolce Vegan. Good, good stuff! Probably one of my top five favorite hummus recipes.

I also created a new cookbook recipe for the occasion — Butter Bean Bruschetta:

Toasted baguette slices are topped with a butter bean spread, tomato, avocado, red onion, and fresh basil.

And I whipped up some vegan "Save the Pigs" in a Blanket:

For these, I wrapped Lightlife Smart Dogs in my own recipe for butter soymilk biscuit dough.

And it wouldn't be a proper party without cupcakes! Since Stephanie is the cake queen, she brought over a batch of her famous Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache:

Thankfully, I have a few of these leftover to munch on for the next few days. Besides eating, we played some lame baby shower games, and then Stephanie got to open presents. She got lots of great gifts for the baby, including these awesome books (from Lindsey) to prepare her for raising the kid to be a proper vegan — Vive le Vegan by Dreena Burton and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Eating for Kids.

The kid is due in July. Steph and Richard are waiting until the baby pops out to find out the its gender. I'm voting for "girl" although I have a feeling that it's gonna be a boy.

On a completely different note, my boyfriend Paul just asked me to ask all of y'all to send his dad some positive healing energy. His dad went to the hospital today after either a series of seizures or a mild heart attack ... the doctors aren't sure which it was yet. Thanks guys! Positive energy is much appreciated.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Seitan "Beef" Tips

Over two years ago, I developed a recipe for Seitan "Beef" Tips over Brown Rice for my cookbook. At the time, I'd just begun dabbling in developing recipes. The cookbook was just a baby idea then. I'd barely gotten started, and I wasn't even sure yet about my theme. I was just developing recipes all willy-nilly without a clear goal in mind. I just knew I wanted to publish a cookbook.

Some of those early recipes haven't made the cut. But this homestyle, hearty seitan entree is a keeper, for sure:

It's a veganized version of a beef tips recipe from one of my mom's old fundraiser cookbooks. You know the ones? Those spiral-bound volumes that benefit some Pentacostal church, Catholic school, or Junior League. Those homegrown volumes are so rich in delicious, comfort foods just begging to be veganized.

Anyhow, I made my Seitan "Beef" Tips again to test out the original recipe. And I served the filling entree with a side of sauteed, local rainbow Swiss chard with green garlic:

I picked up the chard from the GrowMemphis booth at the Cooper-Young Farmers Market last Saturday. GrowMemphis sells produce grown by inner-city kids in community gardens. To cook, I simply heated a little olive oil in a skillet, tossed in the chard stems and chopped green garlic, sauteed for about 7 minutes and added the leafy greens. After cooking for about 5 to 7 more minutes, I seasoned the greens with Bragg's, Asian chili-garlic sauce, and onion powder.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lasagna Night!

On Tuesday night, I taught my boyfriend Paul to make lasagna while we watched American Idol (go Lee DeWyze! yes, I'm that kind of nerd). Paul's not a vegan. In fact, he has the appetite of an overweight toddler — ridiculous amounts of fish sticks, Hamburger Helper, frozen TV dinners, pretzels, and ice cream.

In Jamie Oliver style, I'm trying to teach Paul to cook whole foods from scratch. I realize convincing him to go vegan is still a far cry from reality, but I'd least like to wean him off of eating processed crap. Learning to cook is the first step, right?

We each made our own pan of lasagna. Paul's had hamburger, ricotta, white pasta lasagna (the only kind he'll eat), marinara, and mozzarella. Here he is layering some noodles (sorry for the meat in the picture!) and acting like a goof. I promise he isn't cross-eyed in real life...

Here I am (or at least, here's my hands) layering my pan — rice pasta lasagna, marinara, basil-tofu ricotta from Vegan with a Vengeance, spinach, and Follow Your Heart vegan mozzarella:

I'll spare y'all the pictures of Paul's finished meaty lasagna, but believe me when I say that it turned out surprisingly prettier than mine. I gave him the proper rectangle lasagna pan, while I settled for the oval pan:

My FYH cheeze totally liquified in the oven, so it looks a little funky but trust me when I say that it was amazingly delicious!

This was my first time using the rice lasagna (you don't pre-boil it at all!), and though it took ages to cook (a whole hour!), it was worth it. I love the chewier texture of rice pasta over whole wheat. I'll probably stick with rice lasagna from now on. Here's a sloppily-plated serving of my vegan lasagna:

Note: I added a little Daiya Italian Shreds to the top for this picture since the FYH melted off the top.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cherry Bomb!

I used to hate cherries! Can you believe that? Well, at least I thought I hated cherries. Turns out I really only hated sickly sweet marischino cherries. I tried my first real, fresh cherry (cherry pie doesn't count) a couple of years ago, and turns out, I adore their tart, sweet taste. When asked if I'd like to review some Cheribundi brand cherry juice, of course I jumped at the opportunity.

A couple weeks ago, a sample box arrived with two eight-ounce bottles of Cheribundi Tru Cherry and two bottles of Skinny Cherry. The Tru Cherry packs 50 cherries into that tiny bottle, and it's naturally sweetened with apple juice. And that's all — just cherry juice and apple juice. No artificial colors or flavors or other crap. My only issue with the Tru Cherry — each eight-ounce bottle is 130 calories! That's a lot for small glass of juice.

But that's okay because Cheribundi also makes Skinny Cherry, a slimmer version of their cherry juice with only 90 calories per bottle. How do they do it? Skinny contains 40 cherries instead of 50, and it's sweetened with calorie-free stevia instead of apple juice. After trying both, I really can't tell a difference in taste. I see no reason to drink Tru Cherry when Skinny is available ... unless you need extra calories (god, I wish I had that problem!).

I drank a couple of bottles on their own, and I gave the boyfriend a Tru Cherry because he could care less about calories. I used my last Skinny Cherry to make the most delicious smoothie I've had in awhile — Cherry Berry Banana Smoothie:

I enjoyed this tart smoothie before hopping on the elliptical machine at my gym this afternoon. Here's the recipe. Buy yourself some Cheribundi (or any cherry juice would work) and make one!

Cherry Berry Banana Smoothie
1 frozen banana, broken into about five pieces
8 ounces cherry juice (like Cheribundi Skinny Cherry)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 Tbsp. hemp protein powder, optional (I use Nutiva brand)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

By the way, I promise to post about food tomorrow night! I haven't had much time for cooking in the past couple of days ... Also testers, I've posted a new recipe on the cookbook testing site. Check it out!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Vegan Bowl!

I adore dishes ... almost as much as the food that goes into them. I collect funky, mismatched plates, mugs, glasses and bowls from thrift stores and yard sales. I don't think I own any matching sets, nor do I desire a boring set. I prefer each dish to stand on its own. But I wouldn't mind of a colorful set of this handmade vegan pottery from VeganDish on Etsy.

For ages (or at least what feels like ages), I've been coveting VeganDish's stamped cereal bowls, serving dishes, and mugs. Each piece proudly proclaims it's vegan-ness to the world. I finally broke down a few weeks ago and ordered my first piece — this adorable cereal bowl:

In this picture, the handmade pottery serves as a vessel for my Peace Vanilla Almond Cereal. I added the dried strawberries and So Delicious coconut milk. VeganDish's work is not cheap, and honestly this bowl was the largest one I could afford. Bowls range from $16 (dip size) to $48 (serving dish). My cereal bowl was $20, but shipping was nearly $10.

It really is the perfect size for a single serving of cereal. It was also the perfect size for these fresh local strawberries served with Ciao Bella Coconut Sorbet. Yum!

VeganDish also sells mugs and the cutest cake stands (and tiny single cupcake stands) you've ever seen! Though I'm not typically fond of sets, I'd really love one of each piece (Are you reading this, Papa and Mama Crunk? Think birthday ... or Christmas ... or both!). If y'all want to see more of VeganDish's one-of-a-kind pottery, click here for the Etsy site. You can also find a few VeganDish pieces on Cosmos Vegan Shoppe.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I Eat Flowers!

I'm good with animals, and I'm not too shabby in the kitchen. But when it comes to gardening, I suck. I can kill plants with a simple glance. I'm pretty sure plants fear me because I love to eat them. That theory would explain why I'm so good with animals ...

Despite my black thumb, I try to grow herbs and random plants every spring. They typically die before summer's end, but I can't stand to fail at anything. So I keep trying. That's why I purchased a nasturtium plant at the Memphis Farmer's Market a few weeks ago. I was certain the plant would die before the edible flowers bloomed. But hey look! It bloomed!

If you've never eaten a nasturtium flower, they really don't have much of a taste. But they look so damn cute atop your salad. I had one of my flowers with a simple salad of local lettuce, kalamata olives, radishes, carrots, and bacon bits. The salad was dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar:

I enjoyed my floral salad with Pizza Toast!

That's a slice of French Meadow Hemp bread topped with marinara and Daiya Italian shreds. I baked the bread in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the Daiya melted. Yum!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Memphis Meets Greece

If I had to choose a favorite bean, I'd definitely go with the plain ole' white bean or Great Northern Beans as they're officially called. Of course, navy beans and cannellini beans are pretty much interchangable. That's why I've always loved the classic Greek fasolada — a white bean soup made with veggies and fresh herbs.

Traditional fasolada contains tomatoes and any combo of carrots, onions, and/or celery. But I'm not traditional, and hey, this is fusion cuisine! I've combined the best of the classic Greek soup (white beans) with my favorite Southern veggie (fresh greens ... in this case, kale), red bell pepper, and dill for my Southern-Style Fasolada:

Some of y'all might think this warming soup may be a little too wintry for this time of year, but I think beans are appropriate no matter what the season. Besides, I developed this recipe a while back, and I've been needing to test it for the cookbook.

Rather than enjoy my fasolada with crusty bread as is traditional, I fried up a batch of my Hoe Cakes instead (also going in my cookbook):

These flapjack-style cornbread cakes are perfect for crumblin' into your beans. Or they're also damn tasty schmeared with Earth Balance and eaten alone.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Soul Sisters

Long before I began veganizing Southern family classics for my upcoming cookbook, author Ann Jackson was busy doing the dirty work of converting a few traditional country recipes into vegetarian versions. Her book, Cookin' Southern: Vegetarian Style, was published in 2000 (when I was still in college!) by the Book Publishing Company at the Farm in Summertown, Tennessee. It's not vegan, but many of the recipes are naturally egg and dairy-free. The ones that are not are pretty easily veganizable.

When my buddy Rick at the Book Publishing Company noticed a copy of Jackson's book on the shelf, he thought of me (ahhh!) and promptly sent a copy for review. Not only is Jackson's book filled with delicious old-time soul food favorites, it's peppered with cute little poems (like her homage to dirty dishes) and narrative about growing up in the South.

I literally got chills when I read her introductory tribute to Southern life. In it, she boils down life in the South to "kitchens in the summer and tomato sandwiches; slapping mosquitos and swatting flies; watermelon, okra, and boiled peanuts; gumbo, corn dodger, and bobwhites"). Bobwhites, in case you didn't know, are birds whose call sounds like they're sayin' the name "Bob White."

Anyway, I was thrilled to explore this volume, and I've gotten so lost in reading it over the past few weeks that it's taken me awhile to actually cook from it. I finally got around to making this Tofu Chicken-Fried Steak:

It's marinated in sesame oil and coated with flour, nooch, and sesame seeds. Somehow, those little seeds actually make this stuff taste like fried chicken! So flavorful. Of course, it's more than a little fattening, but Jackson makes little attempt to healthify Southern dishes. I'm okay with that. My book will focus more on reducing the fat in typically-saturated Southern dishes. But I respect that Jackson doesn't hold back. She cooks the way our Southern grandmas cook, and that means keeping traditional foodways alive. I'm all for that.

On the side, I made Jackson's "Roast Beef" Gravy over Brown Rice:

The gravy actually tastes nothing like roast beef, but it's delicious nonetheless. Simply red wine, onions, and soy margarine. That's it. Honestly, anything can be made delicious with a little red wine. I used my favorite — Yellowtail Shiraz.

And because I'm partial to my greens over anyone else's (except my Granny's, of course), I cooked up some of my own recipe for Mess O' Greens with Turnips:

Here's the whole plate for a little better perspective:

That food has soul. Yes, indeed. Thanks Ann Jackson for pioneering the way for Southern herbivores!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sweet 'n' Savory

As I've mentioned before, I'm slowly working my way through Celine and Joni's 500 Vegan Recipes. And by slowly, I mean I'm on chapter two — Sweet and Savory Muffins. I've been craving muffins for awhile now, so every single recipe in the section sounded delicious. I had a very hard time choosing just one for this week's breakfast. But after much deliberation, I finally settled on the Jam-Filled Soda Rolls:

Why? Because the entire recipe only contains two tablespoons of sugar! That means a healthier breakfast to start my day. Since they're not very sweet, these muffins are more like rolls (hence the name). I used raspberry preserves in mine, but any jam or fresh fruit preserves will do.

For some reason, the blob of jam sunk to the bottom of most of my rolls and leaked out, creating a hollow crater where the preserves were supposed to be. I actually added a little extra jam after halving this one for the sake of the picture. Nonetheless, these are delicious!

To balance the mild sweetness, I also made a batch of Crispy Seitan Bacon from 500 Vegan Recipes:

Wow! I typically only make tempeh bacon and very occasionally buy the Lightlife Smart Bacon, but I've never even thought to make bacon from vital wheat gluten flour and beans. That's the base of this delicious baked bacon alternative. Celine and Joni are genius. Just genius.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Our Daily (Hemp) Bread

I'm pretty cheap, but I typically spend about $4 to $5 for a decent loaf of bread. It's gotta be mostly whole wheat or sprouted grain, high fructose corn syrup-free, and of course, vegan. Sometimes I buy Ezekial sprouted grain loaves. Other times, I opt for Rudi's Organics brand. Even the Whole Foods brand is quite delicious. But no matter how good the bread, I'd never shell out $9 for a loaf in real life.

However, I had a coupon for a free French Meadows Bakery product. I picked out a loaf of their Hemp Bread, which typically runs about $9 with tax at my Whole Foods. They keep it in the freezer section at the Memphis store.

The Hemp Bread, one of French Meadow's line of "performance breads," is made with a mix of organic whole wheat flour, hempseed flour, flax, poppy seeds, oat fiber, pumpkin seeds, millet, wheat berries, and all kinds of other healthy stuff. It contains 13 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per slice!

I first tried the bread for breakfast Avocado Toast:

This slice is schmeared with avocado and seasoned liberally with sea salt, black pepper, and hot sauce. The hempseed flour lends the bread a sort of licorice-y taste, and though I hate licorice, I didn't mind the mild hint of it in my bread. It was a nice complement to the avocado. I especially loved the liberal sprinkling of seeds on the crust.

Next, I tried using hemp bread to make a Mighty Maple PB & Ricemallow Cream Sandwich:

Verdict: Not the best. Fluffer Nutter sandwiches are my absolute fave, but the hemp taste is a bit more savory. It's not the right vessel for a sweet treat like PB or Ricemallow Cream.

Finally, I spread some hemp bread with a little Mock Chicken Salad:

This was perfect! I picked up a tub of the mock chicken salad from my buddy Bastet, who sells her vegan foods at the Cooper-Young Farmer's Market on Saturdays. The TVP-based salad contained little bits of celery that went very well with the savory hemp bread.

Would I buy the hemp loaf again? Only if it was on sale. I'd certainly spend my usual $5 a loaf for it if it were priced that way, but $9 is way too much to pay for a loaf of bread. Just sayin'. It looks like you can actually order French Meadow breads for around $5.50 on their website, but then there's the whole shipping issue. They also sell a full line of healthy tortillas, bagels, and gluten-free desserts (but the desserts appear to be un-vegan).

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day Picnic

Traditionally, my family goes out for pizza on Mother's Day. But this year, we decided to shake tradition with a lovely spring picnic at Lake Frierson State Park in Arkansas. The lake is a quick 20-minute drive from my hometown, and it's about an hour away from Memphis.

I have the best Mama, Me-maw, and Granny in the whole world ever! My Mama is a cookbook-collecting, live music enthusiast (country and blues) with a penchant for Harley Davidson gear and anything shiny (she calls it her "bling"). Over the years, she's done sooooo much for me. She's giving, humble, and probably the most self-less person I know. Here's my mom and me at the lake today (ignore my windblown hair):

My Me-maw and Granny are equally awesome. Here they are — Me-maw (my mom's mom) is on the left and Granny (my dad's mom) is on the right.

Me-maw is a church-going, animal-loving, avid reader with a heart of gold. And she's fiercely determined and stubborn as can be. After a recent shoulder injury, the doctors told her she wouldn't be able to lift her arm again. But she wasn't having that at all. Today, both arms are fully functional.

Any regular Crunk readers probably already know all about my Granny. She's been hard at work using her amazing kitchen skills to veganize many of her cherished family recipes for cakes, pies, and savory casseroles for my future cookbook. Granny can do ANYTHING in the kitchen. Seriously. Today, she even took me foraging for wild poke salad around the lake! Expect a poke salad post really soon.

The rest of the fam grilled meat burgers and hot dogs, but my daddy threw me a Tofurkey Beer Brat and a Boca Vegan Burger on the grill:

I had my burger sans bun since I was eating so much, and I topped it with a little Daiya cheese. Also on my plate are my mom's awesome baked beans, Granny's fabulous vegan potato salad with her homemade pickles, chips and guacamole.

The whole picnic idea was a lot more fun than our old pizza tradition. I think it's a keeper!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Peanut Butter Mochi Puffs

I've not been shy about expressing my mad love for mochi on this blog. There's something about those chewy, pouffy little brown rice squares that I just can't get enough of.

Last week, I made a delicious batch of mochi vegetable dumplings from a recipe in Clean Food. Before making that recipe, I'd never thought of stuffing the baked puffs. You see, mochi comes in a hard square of pressed brown rice. When baked, its chewy guts kinda run out, creating a hollow space inside. That hollow area is the perfect place for filling mochi with all sorts of goodness. I thought, if this works for a savory dish, why not try a sweet stuffed mochi?

Thus Peanut Butter Mochi Puffs were born:

Don't let the picture fool you. I know it doesn't look like much, but hey, mochi isn't very photogenic. The chewy insides fall out in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and cutting the mochi for stuffing causes it to deflate a little. But it's the taste that matters, right?

I used the Grainaissance Raisin Cinnamon mochi and stuffed it with my very favorite PB — Mighty Maple by Peanut Butter & Company. The sweet, nutty mochi were the perfect accompaniment to salty, smoky tempeh bacon at breakfast time.

Peanut Butter Mochi Puffs

1 pkg. Grainaissance Raisin Cinnamon Mochi
7 1/2 Tbsp. peanut butter (or other nut butter)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut mochi into 15 equal-sized squares. Bake for 10 minutes or until mochi is puffed and a little brown.

Cut a hole in each puffed square and insert a half-tablespoon of peanut butter into each. Eat!

Note: If you're like me and only need to prepare one serving for breakfast each day, cook three squares at a time and leave the uncooked squares in the fridge for later. Cooked mochi should be served fresh.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Horrah for the Fifth of May!

Most Americans can't tell you why we celebrate Cinco de Mayo. We just do. It's a Mexican holiday commemorating their army's victory over the French in 1862. Absolutely nothing to do with America. In fact, according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, the holiday is more widely celebrated in the U.S. than in Mexico! I guess we figure Mexico's right across the border and they have margaritas and yummy food. So why not celebrate, right? Americans love any excuse to consume themed dishes and booze.

I always make some sort of Mexican-themed dish on the fifth of May. This year, I opted for the We Will Rock You Three-Layer Nachos from 30 Minute Vegan:

Technically, I didn't follow the whole recipe, but I used the 30 Minute Vegan instructions as a guide. I did go with the tempeh-bean dip base called for in the recipe — a mixture of refried beans, tempeh, bell pepper, and onion.

The dip went into the bottom of my pie pan, followed by smoky sauteed Swiss chard (NOT in the recipe ... I just had some local chard that needed cookin'). That's topped with my favorite Margaritaville tortilla chips. Atop the chips is melted Teese creamy cheddar sauce (delicious!!), salsa, avocado, tomato, Tofutti sour cream, and a few pickled jalapenos.

The 30 Minute Vegan recipe actually includes instructions for a homemade nooch-based cheese sauce, and I would have made that, but I had creamy Teese. And Teese trumps nooch.

The whole pie plate — before adding the sour cream and avocado of course — went into the oven for about five minutes, so the chips were all crispy and the Teese was all meltly-melty.

Later in the evening, I sipped on a few margaritas. Horrah for Mexican victory!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mama Crunk!

Can you believe this woman is 56?!

It's true. Despite her youthful appearance, my mama turned the big five-six today. Just four more years and she'll be freakin' 60! Crazy. I have to tease her since she LOVES to point out that I'm almost 30. Thankfully, I have good aging genes.

To celebrate, my mom and dad drove down to Memphis from Arkansas so my mom could eat at her new favorite place — Fresh Slices Sidewalk Cafe. It's a cutesy little sandwich shop located a few blocks from my house. We walked there in the warm late evening sunlight, and chose a table positioned in the store's front window. I ordered this Portabella Mushroom Panini with a Baked Sweet Potato:

The panini — a juicy portabella cap and roasted red pepper — was supposed to be served on foccacia, but they were out (they always seem to be out of foccacia when I'm there!), so it came on rye instead. My parents ordered steak and sweet potato fries, but y'all don't want to see that.

My mom requested cookies instead of birthday cake. Since I also gave her a copy of Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar for her birthday, I baked a batch of these Chocolate Fudgey Oatmeal Cookies from the book:

They're a little soft and tend to fall apart when you pick them up. But they taste good. If I make them again, I'll increase the flour a bit.

I put the cookies into a big ole cookie jar and made a little label:

She actually requested the book's City Girl Snickerdoodles, but my attempt to make them Monday night was a disaster. The recipe requires that you chill the dough for at least 30 minutes (but preferably overnight) before spooning out the dough. I went with the minimum of 30 minutes since I was pressed for time, and it just wasn't enough. The buttery dough melted into gooey little messes in the oven. Note to self (and anyone else who makes these): Don't skimp on chilling the dough.

Happy Birthday, Mama Crunk!