Wednesday, November 30, 2011

French Dip & Broccoli Love

When I was a kid, I lived on roast beef sandwiches from Rax, an Arby's-esque roast beef chain that once operated a few stores in the South. Rax is still around, but not in these parts. In fact, when I went vegetarian at age 14 in 1994, I missed French dip subs the most.

Since 1994, I've only had two vegan French dip subs. One is on the menu at Imagine Vegan Cafe, and it's so perfect with its seitan steak filling and savory "beef" broth dip. But I recently ran across some Yves Roast Beef Slices on sale, and I knew just how I wanted to use them. I made a French Dip Sub at home!

It's so simple that I can't believe I'd not done it earlier. For the broth, I heated a little water seasoned with soy sauce, vegan Worcestershire sauce, and onion powder. The sandwich was just the slices and a little Miso Mayo on a steak roll.

Another childhood comfort food I've missed for years is Broccoli Cheese Soup. And I recently found an easy recipe for a vegan version on Pixiepine's blog!

I served this with my sub. It's basically like a vegan noochy sauce with broccoli — just nutritional yeast, flour, water, garlic powder, Earth Balance, onions, and broccoli. This was perfect on this ridiculously cold night.

What non-vegan foods do you miss the most?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Beauty on the Inside

Before I get to tonight's post, I have a quick announcement: If you haven't already downloaded the Vegan Cuts Holiday Shopping Guide, you need to do so, pronto. This free guide is more like a Xmas zine than a coupon book. Besides tons of sweet discounts for vegan online shopping (like Back to the Roots mushroom kits, Ecolissa clothing, etc.), there's holiday recipes, homemade gift ideas, and more. Do it!

Enchiladas may be the ugliest food to plate. The soft corn tortillas fall apart when lifted from the casserole dish and the stuffing falls out the sides, resulting in a big ole mess pile of sauce and crap. But we all know that it's what's inside that enchilada that counts, right? That being said, I know you'll all forgive my ugly photo of last night's Fire-Roasted "Beef" & Kale Enchiladas:

This was a clean-out-the-pantry-and-freezer dish that I didn't have to buy a single ingredient for. Turns out, all the stuff needed to make these had been right under my nose for days (and in the case of a few ingredients, months). I always buy close-out food and items on super-sale, so I already had the Gardein Beefless Tips and the fire-roasted enchilada sauce.

The Daiya and Tofutti sour cream were actually leftover from Thanksgiving. The kale and carrots were just hanging out in my crisper, begging to be used.

I created the recipe on the fly, but I'll definitely be making these again.

Fire-Roasted "Beef" & Kale Enchiladas

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 package Gardein Beefless Tips
2 cups chopped kale

1 large carrot, shredded
Chili powder, to taste

Cumin, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste

Onion powder, to taste

Seasoning salt, to taste

6-8 corn tortillas

1 16-ounce jar fire-roasted red enchilada sauce

1 cup shredded vegan cheese

Vegan sour cream, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a small casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the frozen Gardein tips and saute for a few minutes until the tips begin to brown. Add the kale, carrots, and spices, and saute for another 5 to 7 minutes or until kale begins to wilt and carrots are soft.

Fill each tortilla with a few tablespoons of the beef mixture and roll up. Place in the casserole dish folded side down. Pour the entire jar of sauce over the tortillas and top with the cheese.

Bake uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and tortillas are heated through. Serve with sour cream

Monday, November 28, 2011

Vegan Holiday Kitchen

Before Thanksgiving, I was given a copy of Vegan Holiday Kitchen to review. But I couldn't really give it a proper review until I'd tried a few of the holiday recipes, right? Nava Atlas' gorgeous new hardcover book conveniently opens with a chapter of Thanksgiving recipes, but it also contains chapters on Christmas, Jewish Holidays, Easter, Summer Entertaining, and Brunches, Appetizers, and Potlucks.

I put a few Thanksgiving recipes to the test this past week. Last Tuesday, my office had a catered Thanksgiving lunch. Portabella burgers were provided for the vegans and vegetarians, but since the omnis had turkey and all the fixins, a few of us herbivores decided to bring our own vegan Thanksgiving dishes. Hannah brought a Tofurky with gravy and sweet potatoes. Susan brought pumpkin pie brownies from the PPK. And I made a couple of dishes from Vegan Holiday Kitchen. I brought these Agave & Mustard-Glazed Brussels Sprouts:

These were so simple to prepare, just steamed sprouts glazed with a "honey mustard"-like dressing. The natural flavor of the Brussels shone, but they were accented by the tangy, sweet mustard. This may become my new go-to recipe for brussels any time of year.

I also brought this Massaged Kale Salad with Cranberries and Pecans:

It's just a basic raw kale salad massaged with a mixture of olive oil and vegan mayo. I used a mixture of Craisins and raisins because I didn't have enough cranberries. And I substituted the pecans for the cashews called for in the recipe. Both the kale salad and the Brussels went over well with the vegetarians and the omnis on our staff.

A few days later, at my family Thanksgiving, I made these Maple-Pecan Sweet Potatoes:

Growing up, we never had any sweet potatoes or pumpkin at Thanksgiving dinner. My parents didn't think they liked either, but turns out, they've slowly learned to love sweet potatoes (we're still working on their pumpkin problem). My other relatives do like sweet potatoes, and these simple, sweet roasted potatoes met their approval. But most importantly, my sweet tater-phobic parents liked them too.

Vegan Holiday Kitchen is filled with simple, vegetable-based dishes based on seasonal ingredients. And from the looks of most of these recipes, they would please vegans and omnis alike, which is pretty important when we're celebrating the holidays with our non-vegan families. The full-color book is filled with stunning photos from one of my favorite bloggers, Susan Voisin of Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen. I was so excited when I saw her name on the cover because I've been following her blog for years! Plus, she lives just down the road in Mississippi.

I can't wait until Christmas so I can try the Vegg Nog, the Creamy Cracked Pepper Cheez, and the Skinny Figgy Bars. And even though I'm not Jewish, you can bet I'll be celebrating Passover with the Simple Vegetable Soup with Vegan Matzoh Balls and Hanukkah with the Traditional Latkes, Vegan-Style. Hell, I'll even celebrate Easter this year just so I can eat the Spring Vegetable Tart and the Citrus-Roasted Tofu.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How I Spent My Veganaversary

Friday was my 7-year veganaversary (and my 17-year vegetarian-aversary)! I went vegan in 2004 on Black Friday as a way to celebrate what was then ten years of vegetarianism. I went vegetarian in 1994 on the day after Thanksgiving, after realizing that I just couldn't bear to eat any more food that once had a face.

Each year, I celebrate my veganaversary in much the same way: Brunch with my mom at Brother Juniper's, Black Friday shopping, and a dinner of Thanksgiving leftovers. That's been the routine for at least four years now, and this one was no exception. But this time, I documented the day with my iPhone camera.

Since I knew my mom and I were planning to pig out on tofu scramble at brunch, I only had a small slice of Coconut Pie at breakfast. It's Granny's pie leftover from Thanksgiving:

My parents live an hour away, and I'd made the drive back to Memphis after Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday night. But on Friday morning, my mom made the drive to me for brunch and shopping. When she arrived at my house, we took her car to Brother Juniper's, our favorite brunch spot. We both always order the same thing — Fahim's Special, a delicious tofu scramble with kalamata olives and a balsamic sauce, the world's greatest home fries, and 2 slices of whole grain toast with homemade fruit preserves:

You probably can't tell from the picture, but this is a ton of food. I'd say there's a half-pound of tofu on each plate, plus nearly a whole potato's worth of greasy home fries. I'm not ashamed to say that I polished off all my tofu and potatoes. But I did leave a slice and a half of bread on my plate.

After brunch, we headed to the Wolfchase Galleria mall so I could pick out my Xmas presents. My favorite store — Delia's — has great deals on Black Friday, so I try on a few things I like, and my mom buys them. Then she hauls the stuff back home to wrap up for my Xmas presents. Yes, this means I know what I'm getting for Xmas. But at least I know I'll love everything! I'm not too fond of surprises. Here we are goofing off with my iPhone photo booth:

After we shopped until we nearly dropped, my mom headed back to Arkansas. And I went to pick up my doggy, Datsun, from the vet:

He had emergency surgery on Tuesday night to remove a giant wad of cat litter from his tummy. You see, Datsun has recently developed a nasty cat poop eating habit. But I couldn't catch him in the act, and I didn't know how to block him off from the cat boxes (I've since figured out that a baby gate works, but not before it was too late).

Anyway, turns out the litter was piling up in his tummy! It had to be surgically removed, and he had to spend Thanksgiving day at the vet's office in recovery. I was super worried about him healing okay. But he's doing great now! If it weren't for the stitches on his belly, you'd never know he'd had surgery less than a week ago. All he wants to do now is play ball, but doctor's orders say no ball for at least two weeks!

If you have a dog with a cat poop habit, please find a way to keep your pup out of the litter box! I had no idea the litter could stay in his belly like that. The vet said parasites from poop eating aren't a huge concern for dogs on worm prevention (and Datsun is), but even the vet seemed surprised by how much litter was built up in Datsun's tummy. We do have six cats, so that's a lot of poop.

After I got Datsun home, my tofu scramble breakfast was starting to wear off. My mom sent me home with a ton of leftovers, and I'm of the belief that Thanksgiving leftovers are even better than the real meal. So I made a plate with Field Roast and gravy, dressin', cranberry sauce, hash brown casserole, green beans, and ramen noodle slaw:

Another awesome veganaversary has come and gone, but I'm still working on those leftovers.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Field Roast Day!

Some years, I celebrate Tofurky Day. Last year, I had a Gardein Stuffed "Turkey" Day. But this year, I tried the new Field Roast Hazelnut Cranberry Roast. It's a Field Roast loaf stuffed with a hazelnut-cranberry-candied-ginger stuffing and wrapped in flaky, puff pastry. What?! Yes, girl. Yes:

Everything is better wrapped in puff pastry. Everything. So of course, this was no exception. The meaty part was pretty much on par with Field Roast's Celebration Roast, which is exceptional anyway. But it's so much better wrapped in pastry:

I smothered my Field Roast with gravy, and some of my Mama's yummy homemade Cranberry Sauce:

My Mama always makes vegan versions of everything for me, including her famous Cornbread Dressin'. Nobody makes better dressin' than my Mama! I've included her recipe in my cookbook, so when it comes out in April, you can all see your yourself:

She also made me a tiny vegan version of her Hash Brown Casserole (recipe is also in my cookbook). This has hash browns, vegan cream of celery soup, Tofutti sour cream, and lots of Daiya vegan cheddar. She usually tops it with cornflakes, but we were out. So we substituted crumbled potato chips!

Last year, we discovered this recipe for Asian Ramen Slaw, and we made it again this year. It's definitely a new tradition:

Granny brought over some Green Beans & Carrots:

And she also brought Corn with Bell Peppers. That buttery stuff is Earth Balance. My family uses Earth Balance in all the veggie dishes so I can eat them too:

Granny also brought her delicious Rape Greens with Turnips. Granny makes the very best greens, and she uses fresh greens that she picks herself:

Here's my plate loaded up with Thanksgiving goodness! And yes, I ate every bite. And yes, I was miserably full:

After about a 30 minute break from eating, I went for the dessert — a hefty slice of Granny's vegan Coconut Pie (the recipe for this will also be in my cookbook):

And my Mama made Caramel Pecan Bars from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. These were so much better than any pecan pie I've ever had. We heated them up in the microwave for a few seconds and then topped with vanilla ice cream:

Tomorrow, I celebrate my 7th veganaversary and 17-year vegetarian anniversary! My mom and I are going to brunch at Brother Juniper's, and I'll most certainly be eating leftovers for dinner.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Eat Your Peas

My mama never had to make me clean my plate. I always ate everything on my plate, licked it clean (for real, I did that ... even in public, much to the embarassment of my parents), and asked for seconds. I'm a girl who likes to eat, always have. And peas are one of my favorite veggies.

Nothing satisfies when the weather is less than perfect than a steamy bowl of split pea soup. That's probably why cookbook author Sarah Kramer included her recipe for Green Split Pea Soup in her 2011 Go Vegan Wall Calendar and La Dolce Vegan:

This hearty bowl contains not only peas, but turnips, potatoes, carrots, celery, and onions. The recipe only called for a half-cup of dried peas, but I used a full cup because that didn't seem like enough. The result was a hearty pea stew, since the extra peas soaked up most of the liquid. But I think that made it even better.

I can't have soup without bread, so I threw together a loaf of Kramer's Sassy Simple Soda Bread from La Dolce Vegan:

As you see, it's a little undercooked. But I baked the loaf 25 minutes longer than the 50 minute cooking time, and it still wasn't totally done. Still, it's not so bad. There's sesame seeds peppered throughout the loaf, and it has a great taste. Plus, I kinda like doughy bread. I toasted a slice in the oven and spread with a little Earth Balance Coconut Spread and Marmite.

I probably won't be blogging tomorrow night because I'll be in my hometown hanging with my BFF Sheridan before the big Tofurky Day. But have a happy, happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

DIY MacNoCheeto Wrap!

Everything I ate in Portland during Vida Vegan Con was magical, and I wish I could recreate every dish. But the moment I bit into my MacNoCheeto Wrap from Homegrown Smoker, I knew this was a dish I'd be making over and over when I got back home.

We're talkin' BBQ Soy Curls, vegan mac & cheese, baked beans, and sauteed green bell peppers all wrapped up in a giant tortilla. That's, like, my dream meal. Plus, it's so easy to recreate. I finally got around to it this week. Here's my DIY MacNoCheeto Wrap:

I really don't have a recipe because it's so darn easy. I just rehydrated some Soy Curls for a few minutes in boiling water and then drained the water off. Then I sauteed a thinly sliced bell pepper in a teaspoon of olive oil for a few minutes, and then added the Soy Curls and a few tablespoons of my homemade barbecue sauce. I heated that until the sauce was absorbed and the peppers were soft.

For the macaroni, I totally cheated and used a package of Leahey Gardens vegan macaroni and cheese. But you could just as easily make your own basic nutritional yeast cheese sauce and pour it over some elbow macaroni. The baked beans were Bush's Vegetarian Baked Beans from a can. And the tortilla was Cedar's whole wheat Mountain Bread.

To assemble, I placed a half-cup of the Soy Curl mixture, a half-cup of the macaroni, and a quarter-cup of the baked beans onto the wrap and rolled up. Voila! Just as tasty as what I remember from Homegrown Smoker, but not quite as monstrously big.

By the way, JL of JL Goes Vegan has also recreated the MacNoCheeto since she's returned home from Portland. Her's is slightly different and includes a recipe for homemade Mac 'n' Rice!

What dish from a restaurant have you recreated or would like to try and recreate?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Perfect Potato Wedges

I grew up on those battered, deep-fried jo-jo potatoes from gas stations. When I was just knee-high to a grasshopper, my Me-maw and I would walk down to the convenience store by her house, get a couple of "snack packs" (fried chicken, jo-jo taters, and a biscuit), and walk to a nearby park for a picnic. She watched me during the summer while my parents worked, and we did this little picnic ritual a few times a month.

I don't miss the fried chicken one bit, but I could still go for a jo-jo tater. I'm not too picky about the oil my food is cooked in, so I could still eat them if I wanted to. But I'm certain one tater is, like, five million calories. I even feel guilty when I fry potatoes at home, knowing that I have a perfectly good oven that makes taters way healthier. But oven-roasted potatoes never quite had the same crispy magic ... until now.

I've discovered the best recipe for roasted potatoes — the Smoky Potato Wedges from The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions:

Look at the crispiness on those taters! I won't give away all the secrets of the recipe because you need to buy Celine and Joni's awesome book for yourself, but I will tell you that coating the wedges in starch before baking is the key to a crispy crust. They call for potato starch in the book, but I've never seen that around here, so I substituted cornstarch with beautiful results. I'll never need another recipe for roasted potatoes.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Best Tofu Burger Ever!

I was surprised to see so many comments from fellow calorie counters in my last post! I just kinda figured I was some rare OCD crazy person since most all of my friends tease me about my obsessive calorie counting. But so many of you do it too (or have done it in the past)!

There were a few questions from commenters about how I handle restaurant food calories or tabulating recipes, as well as how many calories I'm allotted daily. So before we get to the BEST TOFU BURGER EVER, I'll address those questions.

According to my Lose It app, I can have 1,659 calories each day to maintain my current weight. You just put your current weight, ideal weight (mine is the same as current), and height into the app, and it gives a calorie count. Other counting programs have similar systems. I always go over on the weekends (sometimes by a whole lot!), and that's okay since I generally stay a few calories under each day on week days. I figure it balances out. When I do go over on week days, I don't stress about it. I just try to do better the next day. And I never count calories while I'm on vacation or on eating holidays (like Thanksgiving, Xmas, or my birthday ... yes, my birthday counts as an eating holiday).

I do the math for every recipe I make and program it into my app. It only takes a few seconds since I know most calories in common ingredients by heart. I measure everything I put on my plate. But if I'm dining out, I just estimate. The app has lots of programmed meals, including many vegan specialty items, so it's fairly easy to guess. And I can eyeball a measurement on my plate like a pro.

I hope that answers all your questions 'cause now it's time for the most important part of this post: THE BEST TOFU BURGER EVER! Yes, all caps are needed to show just how good this is. It's the Tofu Chard Burger from Vegan's Daily Companion:

I knew the recipe sounded good when I saw it, but I had no idea it would turn out this ridiculously amazing. I prefer tofu burgers over other ingredients bases because I love that firm-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside texture. These had that, plus hearty Asian flavors since they're seasoned with soy sauce, ginger, and sesame oil. The mashed tofu is mixed with sauteed Swiss chard, and it's held together with ground walnuts and breadcrumbs. I served these with sriracha-mayo (that's the orange stuff) and homemade sweet pickles.

On the side, I made Food Network Chef Mario Batali's Roasted Turnips:

I found the recipe while googling for fresh ideas on how to cook turnips. Although the name says they're "roasted," they're actually sauteed in Earth Balance on the stovetop until soft. Then they're seasoned with poppy seeds, paprika, and red wine vinegar. I had to cook them way longer than the recipe suggested to get them soft enough. But once they were cooked through, they were delicious. I dipped mine in ketchup and pretended like they were roasted potatoes ... just for fun.

On a final note, I've been asked my friends at VegNews to pimp their Holiday Cookie Contest. They're currently taking submissions of holiday cookie recipes, and their staff will be baking their favorites to determine a winner. The grand prize is a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, second prize is a vegan cupcake kit, and the third place winner will receive a dozen Allison's Gourmet cookies. Submissions are due by December 10th. Click here for more information.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Countin' Calories

I have a confession to make. I count calories. Every single teensy, little calorie. And I've done so for years.

I'm not trying to lose weight (well, maybe a pound or two gained in Portland this past August ... damn Voodoo Donut binges), but I am trying not to gain weight. I'd like to stay this size for the rest of my life, so I work hard to keep my calories within the amount allotted by the Lose It app on my iPhone.

It's also a control issue. I'm a bit of a food addict, and this keeps me from overindulging. When I'm not counting (say, on vacation or a holiday), I eat until I'm miserable. Plus, I'm type A to the max, and I've probably got a hint of OCD. Nearly every hour of my life is planned. I don't do spontaneity. Counting calories falls into my overall anal retentiveness. And this is gonna sound super-nerdy, but I think counting calories is fun! Especially when I get to erase consumed calories by recording my daily workouts.

But as y'all know, this Southern girl loves her junk food and fried goodness. I just portion it out and enjoy it in moderation. However, sometimes, it's really nice to have a naturally low-cal meal so I can eat more of it (and save those extra calories for a beer or two later in the day). That was the case with this French Country Stew from Dr. Neal Barnard's Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook:

At only 212 calories for a two-cup serving, this dish is filling and guilt-free. It's got butternut squash for some seasonal goodness, plus cabbage, diced tomatoes, and white beans. I enjoyed it with a slice of Harvest Grain bread from Kroger schmeared with a little Earth Balance and Marmite.

This is the first recipe I've made from Dr. Neal's cookbook, but as you would expect from the good doctor, all of his recipes are based on whole foods. Calorie counts are included, and most meals are less than 300 calories per serving. I love it when cookbooks include calories so I don't have to do the math myself. Anyway, I'll be exploring this book more soon. I've got my eyes on the All-American Scramble Bagel, the Italian Chickpea Nibbles, the Tempeh Burgers, and the Hummus Pizza.

Do you count calories? Or do you have another method of regulating your food intake?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ancient Porridge

I love injera bread! That spongy, slighty sour flatbread is the very best part about eating at our local Ethiopian joint, Abyssinia. And even though there's an injera recipe in Papa Tofu Love Ethiopian Food, I'm still a little intimidated about making the fermented bread with ancient teff grains. So when my friend Katie gave me a bag of Bob's Red Mill Teff, I wasn't sure what to do with it.

Someday, I'll use some to make injera. But I found a quicker way to put the teff to use on the back of the Bob's Red Mill bag — Teff Porridge! Teff makes an excellent and protein-rich stand-in for oats or other breakfast grains. It has a nutty taste that some say has chocolate notes, but I didn't notice much chocolate taste. Just nuttiness.

Since I had still had some So Delicious Coconut Nog, I decided to make a Holiday Teff Porridge:

That's slow-cooked teff mixed with nog and dried cranberries. It made for a hearty breakfast on this cold, rainy morning. And even though I hate all things Xmas until after Thanksgiving, this actually got me in the holiday spirit a little early.

Holiday Teff Porridge
1 cup water

1/4 cup teff
1/2 cup vegan nog
1/2 tbsp. maple syrup

1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. sweetened dried cranberries

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Whisk in dry teff to ensure no lumps form. Lower heat to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until porridge is thick and teff is soft.

Stir in the nog and continue to simmer for a few more minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat. Whisk in the maple syrup and cinnamon. Top with dried cranberries. Serves one.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Al-Rayan

I feel a little ashamed to say I'd not been to Al-Rayan in nearly six years, and that long-ago visit was my only one until this past Friday. You see, this quaint Middle Eastern eatery is in walking distance from my house. I've lived in this neighborhood for three years, and Al-Rayan just so happens to have the best Middle Eastern fare in town. What have I been waiting for?

Honestly, I'd forgotten how delicious the food was or I'd have been back a long time ago. Thankfully, I had my reminder this Friday at a dinner meet-up with my vegetarian/vegan besties.

The place is tiny and tucked into a rundown shopping center strip, the same strip that houses an H&R Block, a ghetto corner store, and a not-so-impressive Vietnamese joint. The sign is faded, and you can barely make out the name "Al-Rayan." You kind of just have to know where it is. Inside, a large television plays a station from Yemen, and traditional decor hangs on the walls. There are a few small tables and this adorable seating arrangement on the floor:

I wasn't going to order anything but water to drink, but when my friend Steve's cute little cup of Arabic Coffee arrived, I knew I had to have my own:

This teensy cup of thick, black coffee was unlike any coffee I'd ever had. I've tried other ethnic coffees, and I'm used to the thick, almost-sludgy consistency. But this coffee had a slight floral aftertaste. It was amazing! I wish I knew their secret and I'd make Arabic coffee every morning. Or I guess I could just walk down to Al-Rayan and buy some.

The server brought us a basket of fried pita strips as an appetizer, but I forgot to photograph those. For my entree, I went the traditional route and ordered the #7, a platter of falafel, hummus, salad, pita bread, tahini sauce, and chili sauce:

Besides the usual ground chickpeas, their falafel is also made with ground vegetables. I couldn't tell what vegetables, and the menu just says "vegetables". They definitely had a heartier, more satisfying bite than most falafel I've had. I stuffed the falafel and salad into pita bread spread with hummus, tahini, and chili sauce.

The hummus was also perfection. It was creamy and garlicky in all the right ways. Plus, look at that generous pool of olive oil and the olive garnish!

My friend Lara, who suggested the restaurant, knew a secret about the menu that I wasn't privy too. Al-Rayan also serves a few Ethiopian/Etrian dishes like Ful (mashed fava beans with olive oil, lemon juice, onion, and garlic). It's served with raw tomatoes, onions, and pita bread:

I took a bite, and her dish was phenomenal. I'll definitely be ordering that next time. It's listed on the menu, but it's tucked on the backside and written in smaller letters. There's also a Vegetable Sandwich and a Falafel Sandwich, both wrapped up in a massive pita wrap. Needless to say, there's plenty for vegans at Al-Rayan. Plus, the ladies who work in the place are the nicest people ever. And I got my falafel spread (enough for two meals) and coffee for only $8!

Al-Rayan is located at 288 N. Cleveland. Call 901-272-0227.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sushi for One

Sushi is so easy to make at home, but for some reason, I've never made sushi in small quantities. I've only made it at home for parties, and I always make a ton.

But one night last week, I decided to make sushi just for little ol' me. I had a half-used tub of Tofutti Cream Cheese that needed to be used, and I'd run across the recipe for Orange County Rolls in The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions:

These are simple veggie rolls with a touch of vegan cream cheese and a sriracha-mayo sauce for dippin'. Y'all know how I love sriracha, and when I saw that ingredient and the cream cheese, I knew I must make this, stat. The rolls were yummy, and dipping them in a mayo sauce rather than the usual wasabi and soy sauce was a nice change.

The recipe makes four rolls, and since I don't like to eat leftover sushi, I rolled a fresh one each day for four days. I made the rice in one batch and refrigerated it. Then each day, a few minutes before rolling, I heated a small amount of rice with a few tablespoons of water in the microwave. Then I let it cool a bit before rolling. Microwaving with water re-stickifies the sticky rice, which works much better for rolling than dry, cold white rice.

On the side, I had a garden salad with a homemade Sesame Salad Dressing from Vegan's Daily Companion:

The dressing only has four ingredients — sesame oil, ume plum vinegar, agave nectar, and water. I'd never used ume plum vinegar, so I wasn't sure what to expect. It's really salty on it's own, but it was perfect when mixed with the sesame oil and sweet agave.

What's your favorite vegan sushi roll?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vegan Slab o' Bacon

I've seen shirts for sale online that read, "Bacon Makes Everything Better." And it does, so long as your talkin' vegan bacon. It's the smokiness that gives bacon it's magic, and luckily for vegans, we can have that taste with storebought vegan bacon, imitation bacon bits, Liquid Smoke, and even bacon salt (yes, it's vegan!).

I usually buy the Lightlife Smart Bacon. It's tasty, and it's vegan. But it also costs about $5 a package. This week, I went all super-saver-girl and made my own bacon! I used the Black Forest Bacon recipe in The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions:

Look at that peppery slab! I knew this was a must-make when I read the word "slab" in Celine and Joni's awesome guide to veganizing anything. All I could think of is that line from "Sweet Transvestite" in Rocky Horror that's all, "Come up to the lab, and see what's on the slab."

Anyway, this spicy, smoky bacon is awesome. It's a seitan-based dough that's coated in a maple-smoky-black pepper sauce. Then it's baked to perfection. Once baked, a slab will give you about 20 thin slices. I fried these up for breakfast as a side dish for my granola with hempmilk and dried strawberries:

After a week of eatin' off the slab, I still have a ton of bacon left. Looks like somebody's havin' BLTs soon!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Of Coloring Books & Coconuts

Can you freakin' believe the holidays are almost here?! Geez. Where'd the year go? Is this what happens when you get old? Does time really move faster? By the time I'm 40, a year will be, like, a month. Damn.

Even though it arrived too soon, I do love this time of year. I mean, I detest the cold. But I love Thanksgiving and Christmas because I love food and presents. And, oh yea, family too. Since the holidays are on their way, I have two reviews in this post aimed at this special time of year.

First up is Nashville vegan children's book author Nathalie VanBalen's new "Happy Thanksliving!" coloring zine!

Her first book, Garlic-Onion-Beet-Spinach-Mango-Carrot-Grapefruit Juice, is a full-color work of art. In fact, you can order it here (I bet it'd make an awesome Xmas gift for some little kid in your life). But now Nathalie's come out with a seasonal coloring zine that shares the story of why vegans don't have turkeys on their tables. Here's a cute page from the zine:

And here's one that I colored tonight!

I haven't colored in ages, and it was so much fun. Even if you don't know a kid to order this zine for, you should get one for yourself and embrace your inner kid. Nathalie's rhymes and illustrations are adorbs! Order your copy here on Nathalie's website. It's only $5!

If you're like me, the day after ThanksLiving is the day you put up the Xmas tree. We go immediately from pumpkins, sweet taters, and pecan pie to holiday cookies, peppermint, and nog. Well, there's a new vegan nog on the market that trumps all others — So Delicious Coconut Milk Nog:

I've never had non-vegan egg nog because that sounds disgusting. But I've seen it, and it always looks really thick and creamy. Other vegan nogs taste great, but this one captures the thick, almost pudding-like consistency. Plus, it's even better spiked with a little brandy.

Also new this season is So Delicious Mint Chocolate Coconut Milk:

I'd say this is pretty on par with the other vegan mint chocolate milks on the market, but if you're anti-soy or soy-sensitive, this one has the added advantage of being made from coconut milk. It's delicious cold, but I made cheater hot chocolate with Dandies marshmallows on top ... just because I can.