Thursday, September 29, 2011

Worldly Vegan

Confession: I've never traveled outside the U.S. Well, except for a quick cruise stop in Mexico last year. I'd love to travel across the globe. But that takes serious cash, and I don't have serious cash. For now, I'll have to pretend to be a jet-setter, and thankfully, there's a new vegan cookbook on the market that can help me do just that.

Cookbook goddess Bryanna Clark Grogan, whom I had the pleasure of dining with at Vida Vegan Con, just released her latest tome, Vegan World Feast: 200 Fabulous Recipes from Over 50 Countries.

I was sent a review copy, and although I've only had time to test a couple of recipes, I wanted to go ahead and gush. This book is amazing! Upon my first flip-through, I got all giddy when I saw a recipe for Vegan Poutine in the Universal Comfort Foods chapter (of course, you know I'd go to the comfort foods chapter first!)

Poutine, a popular fast food dish in Quebec, is made with French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. I'm a sucker for cheese and gravy, and I've attempted to make poutine once before. But Bryanna's was better:

The fries are actually hand-cut oven-baked Russet potatoes. They're topped with her Rich Brown Yeast Gravy, an oil-free gravy made with nutritional yeast, chickpea flour, and gravy browner. But the real star of this dish is the Tofu Cheese Curds. Using Bryanna's recipe, you congeal silken tofu with agar in the fridge for several hours, and then you crumble it with your hands. The texture is exactly like that of dairy cheese curds!

Next, I tried the Fresh Pineapple Noodle Stir-fry, also in the Universal Comfort Foods chapter:

This was an Asian fusion dish "with a touch of Hawaii" (Bryanna's words), and for something so simple, I was blown away by the intense flavor.

There's sauteed portabella mushrooms, tofu, garlic, ginger, fresh pineapple chunks, and Swiss chard in there, and because I really like the heat, I used a package of Olio Fresca Habanero Linguine (a gift from Rick of the Health Sleuth) for the pasta in the recipe. I also added a fresh habanero from our front yard pepper plant, even though it wasn't called for in the recipe. On top of all of that, the recipe calls for a couple of tablespoons of sriracha.

Let's just say I kept the tissues handy for my runny nose, and I washed it all down with a cold glass of soymilk to calm the heat. The linguine was uber-hot, just like I like it. If you're ears aren't burning and your nose isn't running when you eat spicy foods, you need to add more heat. :-P

But for all you spice wussies, this dish can easily be toned down by not using hot pepper pasta and not adding a chopped habanero. FYI: My boyfriend and I actually challenge each other to eat straight raw habanero peppers from our plant every once in awhile to see who can go the longest without taking a drink of "milk."

Outside of Bryanna's comfort food chapter, there are chapters on brunches from around the world, soups, salads, beans, soy and seitan mains, and of course, sweets. Other recipe highlights I've bookmarked include vegan Scottish pot haggis, seitan steak au Poivre, cheesy potato galette with Bryanna's homemade vegan gruyere, pyrogies, and sweet 'n' savory Afghan squash.

I'll be trying these dishes and others over the next few months and posting about them here as I go.

What one dish from another country would you most like to see veganized?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Get Down on the Farm with Me!!!!

Hey guys! Quick post tonight! I wanted to let y'all in on a fun vegan retreat scheduled at the Farm in Summertown, Tennessee for October 7th through the 9th.

I've been invited again to host a cooking demo at the Farm. If you've never heard of the Farm, it's a community of vegans and vegetarians who've been living on several thousand acres of land in middle Tennessee since the early 1970s. The on-site Book Publishing Company (the awesome publisher of my Southern vegan cookbook, scheduled to hit stands in April) pioneered the vegan cookbook phenomenon with the publication of The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook. I mean, they practically INVENTED noochy vegan mac & cheese with that book.

Other Book Publishing Company books include everything by Louise Hagler (Tofu Cookery, anyone?), Jo Stepaniak's The Uncheese Cookbook, and most of Bryanna Clark Grogan's amazing tomes.

The vegan retreat will include demos from yours truly, as well as the fabulous cookbook author Barbara Bloomfield (More Fabulous Beans, Soup's On), the multi-talented raw cracker maker Douglas Stevenson, and possibly even the tofu goddess Louise Hagler!

The price is $250 for individuals or $450 for couples, but the Farm is offering a special discount of $50 off the original price to Vegan Crunk readers. Go here for more information, and let 'em know you read all about it here for your discount. If you can't make the October retreat, there's another scheduled for February 24th-26th, 2012.

For more on the event, check out my post from the last Farm Vegan Retreat last February.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Post Punk Kitchen Cookbook Challenge: Week Two

In week two of the PPK cookbook challenge, we're supposed to cook from American Vegan Kitchen by Tami Noyes. Confession: The inclusion of this book was the main reason I signed up for the challenge. Tami's compendium of comfort classics (god, I love alliteration!) is among my favorite cookbooks.

Just like last week when I cooked from the Veganomicon for the challenge, I chose to go with breakfast. Many of Tami's breakfast recipes are more like what most people would consider brunch — heavier, more complex morning meals that satisfy for hours. But I'm a heavy eater in the morning since I always wake up with a grumbly tummy.

This dish of Mexican Style Beans on Bread definitely kept me full until lunchtime:

That's two slices of day-old wheat French bread coated in a savory French toast-style dip and then fried until crispy. They're topped with cumin-spiked black beans with diced tomatoes, corn, and onions. And that's all topped with tequila-lime salsa and avocado. Yes, you can say, "oh my gawd" now.

What's your breakfast style? Heavy foods? Savory meals? Sweet stuff? Lighter fare?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Autumn Means Pie

I have a love-hate relationship with fall (you can read all about that here). But every year, as the leaves start to turn, I come to accept the change of the seasons. By the time the Autumn Equinox arrives, my thoughts change to "fall means the end of the summer, and that sucks" to "fall means pumpkin and Halloween and my birthday, and that's cool." That's about where I am now.

What moved me into this happy place with my fall feelings? Just a day after the equinox (that was Friday), I made Sarah Kramer's Pumpkin Pie from the 2011 Go Vegan Wall Calendar:

This creamy, spicy pie is naturally sweetened with maple syrup, and it's topped with a walnut crumble. I made the crust using my recipe for whole wheat pie crust (it'll be in my cookbook ... due out in April). And of course, no pumpkin pie is complete without a healthy squirt of Soyatoo Rice Whip. So, so good. Like autumn leaves in my mouth ... only not as crunchy and way tastier.

One note: A blog friend Babette pointed out a typo in the wall calendar recipe. The pie is also included in La Dolce Vegan, and there it only has 1/4 cup of cornstarch rather than the 3/4 cup called for on the calendar. So if you have Sarah's calendar and plan on making this pie, use 1/4 cup of cornstarch. Capiche?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Vegan Challenge, Day 25: Greens 'n' Grains

I'm nearly done reading Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's The 30-Day Vegan Challenge. Designed for newbie vegans, this book has a chapter a day on the essentials of a compassionate, healthy diet. Since I last checked in on Day 21 (cinnamon coffee cake!!), I've read about the importance of fiber (gotta poop!), eating by color (something Colleen deals with in way more detail in her awesome cookbook, Color Me Vegan), and surviving holiday get-togethers on a vegan diet.

Recipes are peppered throughout the book, and there are several fun (and colorful) ones in the chapter on eating by color. That's where I found the recipe for this Garlic 'n' Greens Soup:

The green hue may not look super-sexy, but this low-cal soup is delicious and wholesome. There's a whole head of garlic in the broth, plus potatoes and calcium-rich bok choy. It's practically fat-free aside from the tablespoon of oil used to saute the garlic.

Also in the color chapter was a recipe for Polenta Squares:

I served these with marinara sauce for dipping, as a grainy side to my soup. The polenta is cooked with sundried tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh parsley. It's chilled so it becomes super firm, and then it's cut into strips. The strips are fried in a saute pan until brown on both sides. I used non-stick cooking spray for frying to cut back on the fat.

This will be my last official review post on this book since I'm almost done reading through it, but I'm sure I'll be re-visiting the recipes often. All the recipes in this book are tried and tested recipes from Colleen's other books: The Joy of Vegan Baking, The Vegan Table, and Color Me Vegan. Though I already have all of those books, I heard Colleen mention in her podcast — Vegetarian Food for Thought — that she considered the recipes in The 30-Day Vegan Challenge to be her favorites. It's nice to have a cookbook author's "greatest hits" all in one place.

If you're new to veganism or Colleen's books, this would be a great place to start. And it'd make a great Christmas gift for the aspiring vegan in your life. I review a lot of products and cookbooks, and I like most of them. But I rarely make such a pitch for readers to buy them. I really admire all that Colleen does to spread the message of compassion in such a positive way. This book will make new vegans. And it probably already has.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

So Fresh and So Clean

I have a gum problem. Well, I did. Until I got kinda grossed out by all the artificial crap in gum. Wrigley's is vegan, but it's still loaded with fake sweeteners and junk. But without a decent healthier option, I still give in to my gum cravings on occasion ... usually after lunch when my breath's all funky. Oh, and most mints are just as bad with the artificial sweeteners, so ...

Enter EatWhatever. It's a new vegan breath-freshening system made with as few ingredients possible. The company sent me a free "prescription" to test them out:

Isn't that cute? Really though, you don't need a prescription to EatWhatever. You can buy the stuff on their website in convenient purse-sized packs:

Here's how it works: First, you swallow a gelatin-free gelcap filled with organic peppermint and parsley seed oils. That gets down in your insides and dissolves, but it takes a few minutes to start working. So in the meantime, you suck a regular, sugar-free, white mint for instant fresh breath. By the time it wears off, the gelcap has started working.

So does it work? I first put the mints to the test last week after downing a big ole plate of oniony, garlicky, Ethiopian Soy Curls and Potatoes. A few minutes after the instant mint wore off, I did notice that my mouth didn't have that nasty onion taste, but I still wouldn't have felt comfortable blowing my breath in someone's face.

However, tonight I tried them again after a less pungent meal of soup and polenta (I'll post of that meal sometime next week). And about an hour later, I noticed that when I burped, it tasted like mint! That would be the gelcap doing its job.

For now, EatWhatever isn't available in Memphis, but it's not too costly to order online. You can get 9 boxes of 10 servings (that's 10 gelcaps and 10 mints) for $22. That comes to about $3.75 per box. More than I'd pay for crappy gum, but not more than I'd pay for something better.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Vegan Challenge, Day 21: Cake for Breakfast!

I'm almost certain this isn't the first post I've written titled "Cake for Breakfast," which means this isn't the first time. Not hardly.

Although I prefer savory, hearty breakfasts, I occasionally opt for sweeter breakfast foods. Most often, that's something healthy, like peanut butter oats or cereal with soymilk. But today, that sweet breakfast treat was cake ... Cinnamon Coffee Cake, to be specific.

This recipe is from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's The 30-Day Vegan Challenge. Now don't get me wrong. Day 21 of her month-long plan for newbie vegans is actually about demystifying tofu, not eating cake for breakfast. But she includes a few dessert recipes in another chapter on baking without eggs. I made the cake to take to work this morning (and I did), but I couldn't resist a few pieces with my morning coffee.

The cake is made with whole wheat pastry flour and unrefined sugar, so it's kinda healthy. And the crunchy walnut topping is amazing! There's at least a tablespoon of cinnamon in the cake and topping. Nothing goes better with coffee than a moist-yet-crumbly cinnamon coffee cake. If new vegans are using Colleen's book as a motivator, tasty desserts like this will definitely help.

I only have a few more days left in Colleen's 30-day challenge. In case you've missed the last few blog posts on this, I'm reading through her step-by-step vegan challenge this month to review the book. Since my last post, I've read about B12, getting omega-3's from plant food, increasing iron absorption, vegan cheese options, and the protein myth. Colleen really does cover all the bases in this book. I wish I'd had this when I went vegan ...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bluff City Vegan Eats: New Hong Kong

It's been awhile since I've done a Bluff City Vegan Eats post, mostly because I've been eating out twice a week at Imagine Vegan Cafe (not exaggerating ... we go every Wednesday night and every Sunday for brunch). But turns out, there's been a very, very vegan-friendly Chinese joint in Memphis for quite some time.

A friend filled me in on the magic that is New Hong Kong. This tiny, mom-and-pop Chinese restaurant is tucked into a nondescript shopping center in East Memphis, about 20 minutes from my Midtown neighborhood. Driving past, you'd never in a million years guess they'd have anything beyond the typical bean curd stir-fry.

But girl, they do! They have a whole secret vegan menu! There's only one copy and it's stashed behind the counter, so you have to ask to see it. But it's loaded with about 30 or so totally vegan dishes, most of them made with mock meats. They even have a disclaimer on the veg menu to let diners know that all dishes are free of animals and their by-products, including eggs and dairy. How cool is that?!

I met Stephanie (Poopie Bitch on the PPK), her husband Richard, and their baby Peter there yesterday to check the place out. We started with an order of Vegetable Wontons:

Now, I haven't had a wonton since I gave up dairy cream cheese in 2004. And I used to LOVE me some fried wontons. These were cream cheese-free and just stuffed with veggies instead. This batch was a little overcooked, but still tasty, especially when dipped into the sweet 'n' sour sauce. I'm going to order them again next time to see if they're not quite as overcooked.

I ordered the General Tso's Mock Chicken:

I don't think I've ever had meaty General Tso's chicken, but it's such a standard that I HAD to order the vegan version. The "chicken" was wheat gluten-based (as are all their mock meats) and fried. Then it was coated in a sweet 'n' spicy sauce. I love how they included three little pieces of broccoli! Gotta make more room for the mock meat because that's the good part.

I really loved the texture of their mock chicken. It wasn't creepily meaty, but definitely toothsome enough to fool any omni. I mean, it looks just like real chicken, right?!

Richard ordered the Sweet 'n' Sour Chicken, which came with a side of that iconic bright red sweet 'n' sour for dipping:

And Stephanie ordered the Mock Orange Beef:

This may have been everyone's favorite dish. Though I loved the chicken, there was something extra special about the fried "beef" chunks coated in a sweet 'n' savory citrus sauce.

We'll definitely be going back very soon. New Hong Kong also offers dishes made with mock ham, mock shrimp, and regular old tofu (but who would order tofu when you can have mock beef?). They even have vegan lo mein!!

New Hong Kong is located at 4594 Quince. Call 901-680-0999.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Post Punk Kitchen Cookbook Challenge: Week One

For the first time ever, I've decided to take part in the PPK Cookbook Challenge, in which bloggers and PPK-ers cook from a predetermined book each week. Now, I'm the world's worst PPK-er. Since they re-launched the vegan forum last year, I've posted exactly 34 times (I checked today). It's just so hard to keep up with the monster force that is the Post Punk Kitchen.

But I just so happened to stumble on the cookbook challenge as it was getting started this time. And I figured, what the hell? I had most of the cookbooks on the list. The book for Sept. 18th through the 24th is anything by Isa or Terry. I decided to cut two carrots with one knife (check out my clever Colleen Patrick Goudreau idiom!!) and use Veganomicon since it's by both of these lovely ladies.

I often ignore the brunch section of Vcon, maybe because there are so many more options in Isa's Vegan Brunch. But the small selection of brunch items in VCon are pretty damn good. Take, for example, this Tofu Florentine:

That's an English muffin topped with sauteed spinach, broiled tofu, and vegan cheezy sauce. How freakin' balanced is that breakfast?! Right?

I made a batch of this Sunday night, and I'll be heating up a little each day this week for the morning meal. That means I have a quick, healthy breakfast waiting for me for three more days. Oh yea, I know a thing or two about planning ahead. ;-)

What are your favorite recipes from the Veganomicon?

Beans 'n' Greens

As a Southern cook, I typically add collard greens or kale to my slow-simmered beans. But tonight, I had both beans and greens cooked separately and enjoyed in the form of salads.

This Tropical Three Bean Salad from Blissful Bites was hearty, healthy, and easy as pie to prepare:

There's kidney beans, white beans, and chickpeas, all cooked from dried beans. Then they're cooled and mixed with tomato, mango, cumin, lime, and avocado. It's super summer-y, even though summer is nearly over. But it's back in the 80s here, so I'm holding out with warm weather foods as long as I can.

On the side, I made another uber-healthy dish from Blissful BitesKale Salad with Coconut Curry Sauce:

The kale is blanched with carrots and radishes, and that's all mixed with rehydrated arame. Okay, I actually used hijiki, but they look almost exactly the same. Arame was, like, $7 a bag at Whole Foods, and I already had hijiki in my pantry. A sea veggie is a sea veggie, in my opinion, so I think it's a fine substitution.

The salad veggies are coated with a creamy coconut curry sauce that's made from coconut milk, curry powder, peanut butter, and miso. OMG! I really could have just eaten the sauce out of the blender with a spoon, but I suppose it's healthier when mixed with the kale and hijiki.

What summer salads will you miss the most as the seasons change?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Healthy Chips!

There's a vegan version of everything — sour cream, cheddar cheese, beef tips, chicken drumsticks. But until now, there's been no vegan ranch-flavored chips. For years, I've lamented this sad fact. When John of the Laziest Vegans in the World interviewed me a few months ago, he asked what product I'd like to see veganized, I answered "sour cream and onion potato chips or ranch tortilla chips." That's the only thing I miss anymore.

But lo and behold, there ARE dairy-free ranch chips! But they're not made from potatoes or tortillas. They're made from kale!!! Rhythm Superfoods sent me a few bags of their healthy chips to try, and one was Kool Ranch Kale Chips. They also threw in a bag of Hickory BBQ Sweet Potato Chips.

Of course, I tore into the kale chips immediately. And wow. Just wow. These super-crispy kale chips are coated in a magical mixture of cashews, zucchini, onion, nutritional yeast, garlic, parsley and other stuff that makes them taste almost exactly like Cool Ranch Doritos.

But unlike the Doritos, these babies are loaded with nutrients. One serving has 112 percent of your daily recommended vitamin A and 80 percent of your vitamin C. I wish I had, like, 20 more bags of these since there are only 2 servings per bag. They're not cheap at around $7 a bag. But these are crispier than any I've been able to make at home in my dehydrator.

The sweet potato chips weren't quite as impressive though. Good, but not on the level of the ranch kale chips. Unlike other brands of sweet p chips, these are raw and not fried. So they're plenty healthy, but they could use a little more of the hickory BBQ flavoring.

As you can see from this picture, only one of the four chips on this plate is super-coated. That one was delicious! But Rhythm should work on making sure the chips are more evenly coated. Nonetheless, I feel much better about snacking on these at my desk than I would, say, regular old BBQ potato chips. They have 310 percent of your daily vitamin A, and the whole bag is only 110 calories.

If I were to shell out the big bucks on more, I'd put my money on the kale chips all day long. And don't worry, I'm pretty sure a kale chip splurge is in my future. They also have kale chips in Mango Habanero, Bombay Curry, Texas BBQ, and Zesty Nacho. The sweet tater ones are available in BBQ and Sea Salt. There's a store locater on their website or you can order directly from the web. They aren't available in Memphis yet.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Papa Tofu and I Love Ethiopian Food!

I adore Ethiopian food — the spicy lentil gravies, the slow-cooked collards, and most importantly, the spongy injera bread. We have a great Ethiopian joint in Midtown called Abyssinia, but I always overeat when I go there. They give you so much food! Plus, they have a lunch buffet and that spells danger for an eat-aholic like me.

But I recently bought a copy of Kittee Berns' new zine, Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food, so now I can make my own and control my portions. Kittee has a few Ethiopian recipes in her original Papa Tofu zine, but this one is all Ethiopian, all the time. Plus, it's gluten-free since Kittee has gone all xgfx. You can buy your own copy for only $9 on Kittee's Cake Maker to the Stars blog. It's 85 pages, and in my opinion, worth way more than a measly $9! So buy one!

I stocked up on Soy Curls at Food Fight Grocery in Portland, so I had to try the Bakela Dinich W'et (Soy Curls and Potatoes in a Spicy Gravy) first:

Soy Curls and baby red taters are simmered in a spicy (like spicy with spices, not hot spicy) sauce seasoned with ginger, garlic, berbere (an Ethiopian spice blend ... I made my own), cumin, coriander, and tomato paste. Even though it's not traditional, Kittee suggests serving this with sliced and salted avocado. And when somebody tells me to eat avocado, I don't question it. The cool avocado slices were, indeed, the perfect complement to the spicy sauce.

On the side, I made Kittee's Y'eabesha Gomen (Mild Collard Greens):

These are similar to my own Southern-style greens in that they're slow-cooked and seasoned with fat. I typically use olive oil. But to make these Ethiopian, Kittee suggests making your own Niter Kibbeh, a butter sauce seasoned with onion, garlic, ginger, and spices. Amazing!

In true Ethiopian style, I ate with my hands, scooping up each bite with a fingerful of injera bread. That's the spongy stuff under my food in case you're not familiar with it. Now Kittee does include a recipe in the zine for making your own, but I've always been intimidated by the injera-makin' process. So I bought a big ole bag of pre-made injera from Abyssinia. It freezes beautifully, so now I'll have plenty for future Papa Tofu meals.

Have you tried Ethiopian food? What's your favorite dish?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Spreads for Breads

Somehow, I've acquired a buttload of spreads lately. And it just so happens that one of my favorite go-to breakfasts is bread schmeared with nut butter and other yummies. Here are a few of my current spreadables.

There's this homemade White Chocolate Peanut Butter that I purchased from Amber of Almost Vegan at Vida Vegan Con. She lugged, like, 30-something jars with her from Kansas City so her partner Matt could peddle them while she attended the conference. Paul and I both bought a jar, so we have plenty ... for now. But Amber, I'm gonna need your recipe. ;-)

Then, there's this cute ass jar of Maple Cream that I received last week in a care package from Rick of the Health Sleuth and his partner Sabrina. Imagine maple syrup that's thick like butter. Oh yes, it's delicious.

And my buddy Stephanie brought me back this GIANT jar of Marmite from her recent trip to the U.K. Any long-time readers have certainly read my gushings about Marmite in the past. I love this yeasty spread, and although our Whole Foods sells it, it's way overpriced there.

Last week, Whole Foods did have at least one thing seriously underpriced though. Ricemellow Creme! It was only 94 cents a tub, and this stuff usually runs around $4 per tub. There were only two left, so I grabbed both. Not sure why they were marked down so low. They're nowhere near expiration. Hope they're not phasing it out. There is no greater pleasure that a fluffer-nutter sandwich made with peanut butter and Ricemellow Creme. Take that, marshmallow fluff. Nobody needs you and your dumb old melted-down animal skin and bones. Ick! How can people eat gelatin knowing what's in it?

Paul and I each got a squeeze pack of nut butter in our Vida Vegan Con dorm room gift bags. Mine was Artisana Raw Almond Butter!

And lastly, this isn't new, but it is delicious. I'm still working on this jar of homemade Blueberry Jam from Megan of Vegan Whore. She sent it to me in a care package swap last year, but I already had so many jams open at the time that I opted to hoard the jar for later. Well, now it's later, and I am tearing this stuff up! Yum!

I bought a Italian Country Loaf from Shoaf's Loaf at the Memphis Farmers Market on Saturday, and I've been spreading a couple slices with spreads each morning this week. Monday, I had a Fluffer Nutter slice (Ricemellow Creme and White Chocolate Wonderful PB) and a Maple PB slice (Maple Cream and crunchy plain PB):

And this morning, I had a taste of sweet and savory. One slice was spread with the raw almond butter and blueberry jam and the other with crunchy plain PB and Marmite (best combo ever, by the way):

What do you like to spread on your bread?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Chili Weather!

So I sort of hate this time of year, but I also sort of love it. I hate that summer is coming to an end. I hate knowing that in a few months, I'll be wearing a damn coat everyday and shivering at my desk. I hate that the Memphis Farmers Market only has a few more weeks before closing for the season. I hate hibernation (which I totally do ... I don't go out nearly as much in the winter).

But fall means my October birthday is almost here, and I love presents. And cake. I love pumpkins. And Halloween is the very best holiday of all, followed closely by Thanksgiving. Fall also means Gay Pride Month in Memphis (we have ours in October because it's too hot during actual pride month in June), hoodies, and most importantly, CHILI!!!

I love chili. You can eat it with cornbread or tortilla chips. You can put beer and/or chocolate in it. You can slather it on your hot dogs, your fries, your mom, whatever. What's not to love? Since the temps temporarily dropped into the 70s last weekend, I cooked up a big ole vat (okay, it was really just a medium-sized pot, but I wish it'd been a vat) of Texas Chili from the Sunny Days in Texas vegan cook zine:

I bought the zine at Panda Cookie's booth at Vida Vegan Con, and the proceeds benefit the Sunny Day Farm Animal Sanctuary in La Coste, Texas. The 36-page zine is a collection of downhome recipes from my favorite Texas bloggers: Krys of Two Vegan Boys, Kristen of Sugar Skull, Mo Martin from Mo Betta Vegan, and Food for Lovers Queso makers Chris and Chrystal Tate to name a few.

The chili recipe was submitted by Molly Frisinger of Lone Star Plate, and it features bulgur in place of the more traditional TVP or veggie burger crumbles. The bulgur has a similar texture to TVP, but it's more filling since it's a whole grain.

On top of my chili are onions and a healthy scoop of Nacheez sauce, which I picked up at Food Fight Grocery in Portland. It's a nacho sauce made from red bell peppers, cashews, chilis, and jalepenos. Yummy! I served my chili with plenty of Garden of Eatin' Red Hot Blues chips for dippin'.

If fall weather means I can eat like this, well, bring it on.

What do you love/hate about fall?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Checking In with the 30 Day Vegan Challenge

Remember how I said I was taking the 30 Day Vegan Challenge in Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's book of the same name? In case you missed that post, I'm reading a chapter a day in Colleen's new book. The book is designed for newbie vegans, and each daily chapter provides valuable info on the essentials of veganism.

Yes, I'm already vegan. But I'm reading along for the sake of review. So far, the book has gone over stocking your healthy vegan kitchen, shopping for vegan items in the grocery store, packing vegan lunches, delicious vegan breakfast ideas, and eating vegan on the road.

I'm on Day 11, a chapter titled "Rethinking Meat Cravings: Salt and Fat Taste Good." But despite the meaty theme for today, I chose to make a few veggie-based dishes from another chapter in the book.

I made use of some leftover Labor Day charcoal to grill these Marinated Portabella Mushrooms:

The oil-free marinade is simple: fresh or dried herbs, balsamic vinegar, tamari. I let the caps sit in the fridge for a few hours in the marinade, and then I grilled them for about five minutes on each side.

For my side dish, I made the Herbed Scalloped Potatoes from the book:

Now I realize this looks like a food photo straight out of the '80s. But it was already dark outside, and my indoor lighting situation is less-than-awesome. The flash photos made the taters look weird, so this is the best I've got.

Anyway, unlike most scalloped potato recipes I've made, this one doesn't call for any kind of vegan cheese stand-in. Not even nutritional yeast. Instead, it relies on a broth made from boiling and steeping herbs, like sage, bay leaves, and rosemary. The oil drizzled over the top gave the dish a butter-y texture and flavor. Delicious!

Here's my plate:

I sprinkled a little nooch over my taters because I couldn't help it. I also tossed together a simple salad of romaine, tomato, cucumber, sunflower seeds, and Vidalia onion/tomato vinaigrette.

I realized after I planned this meal that it was mostly void of protein, except for a teensy bit from the sunflower seeds. But that's okay. I eat plenty of protein (too much probably) throughout the day. Sometimes, it's okay for veggies to be the star of the show.

What's your favorite veggie-based entree?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Muffins and Care Packages and New Blogs! Oh My!

I'm still trying to eat healthy, but muffins can be healthy, right? As I'm working my way through Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's Vegan's Daily Companion, a daily affirmation book with weekly recipes, I'm trying to make as many dishes as I can. Every Saturday/Sunday (she combines those days in the entries), there's a new recipe. Last week's was Blueberry Lemon Muffins from The Joy of Vegan Baking:

I substituted whole wheat pastry flour for half the all-purpose called for, and though that lends the muffins a stickier texture, I feel better about eating them for breakfast with some whole grains in 'em. Also, I always bake with evaporated cane juice instead of white sugar. There's also frozen blueberries and lemon zest. A couple of these with a cold glass of So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk and a Zevia cola made the perfect breakfast this morning!

After starting my morning off awesome with these muffins, I didn't think the day could get any better. But it did when my care package arrived from Rick at The Health Sleuth! We agreed to do a package swap months ago, but I asked him to hold off sending it until I got back from Portland because I didn't have money to buy stuff for his package until after my trip. His package is in the mail, but check mine out!

There's two packages of organic King Soba ramen! One is Edamame Miso and the other is Chili Miso! Y'all know how I love ramen, and this is the healthy kind made with brown rice noodles and buckwheat noodles. I can't wait to try these.

Also in the package: habanero linguine, blueberry butter, maple cream (this stuff is like butter made from maple syrup!), salted pistachio chocolate (delicious! I opened this first!), fresh tortillas, a Texas BBQ Primal Strip, an assortment of bars, homemade eucalyptus hemp & tea tree soap, shea butter body cream, and some cute little Amish people magnets (Rick's from Pennsylvania). Thanks Rick!!

And finally, I have some great news! My best friend in the whole world ever, Sheridan, has started her own vegan blog! She went vegan in January, but she was vegetarian for several years before that. We've been best friends since the 8th grade, and we're still as tight as ever. She lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, so her blog is appropriately named Vegan In Arkansas. Check it out!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Let's Talk About Healthy!

At Vida Vegan Con, I had the pleasure of meeting Blissful Chef blogger Christy Morgan. Her Blissful Bites cookbook hit stands just in time for VCC, so I purchased my very own autographed copy at the conference.

When Christy sat down with me to sign the book, she said, "You know it's all healthy food, right?" Ha! I love my that deep-fried reputation precedes me! But really, folks, as much as I love biscuits & gravy and country fried tempeh steak, a lady's gotta eat some uber-healthy stuff sometimes if she wants to keep her girlish figure (whatever that means). It's all about balance, and after one too many Voodoo Donuts in Portland, I assured Christy that I was going to need her healthy recipes. Bad.

The glossy, full-color book is filled with macrobiotic, raw, and cooked vegan foods — all based on whole foods. Nothing processed. I love me some fake meat, but as today's tip in my Vegan's Daily Companion book suggested, we should all be eating whole foods as the foundation of our diet with processed foods playing a more minor role. Christy's Blissful Bites helps re-establish that whole foundation.

Her recipes are organized by season, so for starters, I chose two from the summer choices. I used fresh summer tomatoes from the Memphis Farmers Market for this raw Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho:

Confession: I bought regular tomatoes instead of heirloom, even though the recipe specifically calls for heirloom. At $2 or more per tomato, I just couldn't afford enough heirlooms to make this soup. Regardless, the regular tomatoes tasted fine — juicy and sweet, just like a tomato should be at the height of their season. The tomato is complemented by blended red and green pepper and balsalmic vinegar. Tangy, sweet, salty, delicious.

For my protein, I made Christy's Curry Chickenless Salad and served it with Back to Nature Multi-Seed Brown Rice Crackers:

Wow! I've tried several recipes for chicken salad over the years, but this one takes the cake. It combines both steamed and cooled tofu and tempeh, and there's a little almonds, celery, and currants for crunch. All mixed up in a curry-Vegenaise dressing. Yum!

How do you sneak more whole foods into your diet?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Taking the 30 Day Vegan Challenge

I'm already vegan, so I guess I'm not really taking Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's 30-Day Vegan Challenge. But for the sake of her new book of the same name, I'm pretending I am. I was given a review copy of The 30-Day Vegan Challenge at Vida Vegan Con. I have all of Collen's books, and I was more than happy to offer my opinion on her latest.

But unlike most of her books, which are aimed at people already familiar with veganism, this new book is designed for people who are considering going vegan. Much like with past vegan challenges via Oprah or the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, the program follows the thinking that if a bad habit is broken in a month's time, maybe 30 meat-free days are all it takes to make a permanent change.

It worked for me! When I went vegan in 2004, I initially only gave up dairy, eggs, and other by-products for a trial run of 30 days. And when that time was over, I realized there was no way I could turn back. Vegan food was tasty, and non-vegan food was cruelty. Why contribute to violence when I could live happier on plant proteins?

I wish I'd had a book like Colleen's back then. I had a few rough patches during those 30 days, and I really could have used her advice in chapters on reading labels or finding vegan food on the road. Each short chapter is intended to be read in a day, and each focuses on one small aspect of veganism: baking without eggs, getting enough iron, compassionate fashion, and surviving the holidays.

Interspersed are recipes for Colleen's favorite dishes from her other cookbooks — The Joy of Vegan Baking, The Vegan Table, and Color Me Vegan — such as chickpea burgers with tahini sauce, French toast, no-queso quesadillas, and apple cobbler.

For the sake of the review (and because it's fun!), I'm reading a chapter a day and making at least one Colleen recipe from each week's worth of recipes. I'll post about each one. So far this week, I've read about determining which ingredients in your pantry may be accidentally vegan, the best way to find vegan items in the grocery store, and common animal ingredients to look out for.

The first recipe I made was located in the first week's choices, which were mainly breakfast foods. Even though she included recipes for tofu scramble, tempeh bacon, and blueberry pancakes, I opted for the easiest option — the Blueberry Smoothie:

Now I'm not typically a smoothie-for-breakfast kinda girl. I usually prefer hearty, savory breakfasts. But post-Vida Vegan Con, I wanted something super healthy. And this is no ordinary smoothie. It's filled with blueberries, strawberries, banana, soymilk, orange juice, almond butter, and flax seed. It honestly kept me full until lunchtime! Colleen also includes recipes for her mango smoothie and green smoothie.

If you're not a vegan, BUY THIS BOOK. If if you're already vegan, The 30 Day Vegan Challenge would make an excellent Christmas gift for that veg-curious friend or family member. Check back throughout the month for more food photos and thoughts on the book.

Cleanse Vacation

So I realize it's a little soon after Vida Vegan Con to take a cleanse vacation, but it's Labor Day! It's the last official grilling day of summer. And that means burgers and beer, right?

We celebrated with WAY TOO MUCH grilled food! Here's my friend Greg manning the flames:

We started by placing some marinated tofu and asparagus on the grill:

And then we charred some zucchini and squash, some Boca burgers, and a few portabella mushrooms. I like my food a little burnt, but Greg doesn't. So I got to eat most of the grilled veggies in this batch:

We also grilled corn (yum!!), and I dressed my veggie burger with Miso Mayo, Nacheez Sauce (which I picked up in Portland), tomatoes, and lettuce:

And Greg made vegan potato salad! He was too cheap to buy Vegenaise, so he used a mixture of soymilk, silken tofu, lemon juice, vinegar, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, and a tad bit of soy sauce to make his own. Plus, he added cooked onions. Yum!

What did you eat for Labor Day?