Monday, October 31, 2011

Vegan Mofo #28 The Big Halloween Post...

My pumpkin - I’ve been in the Island spirit since I got back and so I decided to carve a Honu Turtle with a yin yang shell into my pumpkin along with the words Aloha and Mahalo.on either side of it.

Vegan Mofo #28 The Big Halloween Post

The Book - Party Vegan & The Joy of Vegan Baking
The Author - PV = Robin Robertson & TJOVB = Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
The Recipe - 1) Black Olive Tapenade with carrot sticks and orange bell pepper strips. 2) Black Bean and Butternut Chili 3) Savory Pumpkin muffins with black sesame seeds 4) Black Rice Salad 5) Orange-Carrot Cake with Dark Chocolate Icing 6) Pumpkin Cheesecake
Difficulty - Easy

Halloween is easily one of my favorite days of the year. I look forward to it all year long. Halloween Parties, costumes, party food, candy, scary movies, ghost stories, decorations. It’s a night of fun macabre that is extremely satisfying to participate in. I’ve always loved it. I mean who doesn’t like to dress up in a cool, sexy or scary costume and walk around showing themselves off? Who doesn’t like to have one night a year where literally anything goes and you can cut loose and be someone else?

Normally I like to go all out with Halloween, I have come cool decorations that I like putting up and I always get really into picking a costume. This year however since we just got back from vacation I fond myself just too tired to get into all of that. I did however decide to have a small intimate dinner with my good friends J and L. A costumes required dinner of course, with food that was Halloween themed. At first I wasn’t sure how I was going to make Halloween theme food, then I remembered my copy of Party Vegan, which has a Halloween section.

Now, honestly when I first glanced over the recipes, and read the ingredients lists I was skeptical. I mean who puts green chilies in a muffin? Who puts apple juice in chili? The tapenade had so few ingredients I didn’t know how it could possibly be good, and the black rice salad seemed lacking in any sort of dressing. The only thing that really sounded like it might work was the Orange-Carrot Cake with Dark Chocolate Frosting, but despite my reservations I decided to put my faith in Robin’s hands and trust her. The result? My Halloween dinner was a roaring success.

We started with the black olive tapenade which I served with carrot sticks and slices of orange bell pepper. There really isn’t much to this dip. It’s very simple, consisting of olives, capers, lemon juice, pepper, parsley, garlic and olive oil. Yet the flavor was wonderful, and not overpowering. It was especially balanced by the carrot and pepper dippers.

Then after a lot of munching dinner began. The Black Bean Butternut Chili was so much better then I was expecting it to be, in fact it’s probably one of the best vegan chilies I’ve had. So much flavor and not overly sweet considering it contains apple juice and sugar in addition to the butternut squash. I did do a couple of things differently mainly on accident. For example I forgot to buy chipotle chilies and so instead I used cayenne pepper and smoked paprika. Secondly because my husband doesn’t like beans I ended up blending one entire can before adding it to the chili. Then I only added one more can of whole beans instead of two. I also used double the amount of crushed tomatoes simply because I had a 28oz can on hand and I didn’t want to waste 14oz. I also added a couple of pinches of garlic powder but otherwise I kept the recipe the same.

The Chili was served with the Savory Pumpkin Muffins which were reminiscent of cornbread. They weren’t too sweet nor too savory, and they had a bit of heat from the chilies but it wasn’t overwhelming. In fact the whole flavor profile was well balanced. Who knew I’d ever like chilies in a muffin! Also the pumpkin flavor wasn’t over the top either, it was noticeable but tame. My husband hates pumpkin flavored things but he ended up eating two of these muffins because they were so good.

To go along with the chili and the muffins we had the Black Rice Salad. Unfortunately I forgot to buy a sweet potato and so had to leave that ingredient out, but I don’t think that took anything away from the overall dish. I also served the rice over a bed of kale - rather then romaine - that I’d tossed with a bit of salt, lemon juice and maple syrup, and I added a couple dashes of soy sauce to the rice as it was cooking. It turned out phenomenal, and ended up being a really perfect accompaniment to the chili.

After an appropriate digestion period we had dessert. Originally I was only going to make the Orange-Carrot cake from Party Vegan, but then last night I got a wicked craving for cheesecake. Pumpkin cheesecake to be exact. I used to love cheesecake back in the day, but rarely ate it, now that I’m vegan I eat it even less but maybe two or three times a year I get really in the mood for it. Unable to decide between making a cheesecake and the cake from party vegan I decided on both, and both turned out amazing!

First the Orange-Carrot Cake with Dark Chocolate Frosting. I’ve always loved carrot cake, and chocolate and orange seem to be made for each other so I was very excited to try this. My husband who’s never liked carrot cake was skeptical but he ended up eating two large pieces so I think that speaks for itself. In an attempt to be more Halloweeny I took Robins suggestion and did my best to decorate the top of the cake with a spider-web and a spider. Unfortunately by the time I took this picture my spider looked more like a blog then a spider but you get the idea. If you’re going to do the spider-web decoration the frosting makes a lot more then you need, but you can always store it in your fridge and bring it out when dessert is served incase people want extra frosting on their cakes. Also the frosting is kind of runny, but as long as you have a cake decorator or a pastry bag it’s easy enough to pipe on a spider web and the frosting will definitely harden over time. I didn’t make any alterations to this cake and it was perfect.

The pumpkin cheesecake I got out of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Joy of Vegan Baking. I’ve made her lemon cheesecake in the past and that was a big hit so I was looking forward to trying her pumpkin cheesecake. I decided to serve it in a pecan crust rather then graham cracker because I had pecans and didn’t have graham crackers. The pecan crust which I’ve already talked about was just as divine on the cheesecake as it was on the pumpkin pie. As far as the cheesecake recipe goes i’ts ver easy to make, and I didn’t make many alterations. I just added a bit more cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, and a touch more brown sugar, otherwise I followed the directions exactly. After the pie had cooled significantly I made a candied pecan topping to pour over top. The topping I made with Earth Balance, Brown Sugar and Pecans, no recipe just winged it and it worked out really well.

So that was my big Halloween extravaganza, I had a blast, and I hope you did too. I suppose too that this post will wrap up my vegan mofo for 2011, so I just want to thank everyone for reading, and thank you so much to everyone that commented it was really great to hear your feedback! And like last year, this year I found a few cool new - to me - blogs, which I’m very excited about.

So once again HAPPY HALLOWEEN & I hope you had as much fun during mofo as I did!

Vegan Mofo # 27 Mark & Jennifer’s Aloo Saag (Potatoes & Spinach)...

Vegan Mofo # 27 Mark & Jennifer’s Aloo Saag (Potatoes & Spinach)

The Book - The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East
The Author - Mark Reinfeld & Jennifer Murray
The Recipe - Potatoes & Spinach (Aloo Saag)
Page - 12
Difficulty - Easy
Duration - 30 minutes, a little longer if you make rice to go with it.

Indian is one of my favorite cuisines. I love the spices, the aromas and the creativity. The flavor is always so impressive considering most Indian dishes don’t consist of too many ingredient. I especially love curries, they’re so great over rice or cous cous, served with warm bread. Yum! I’m a fan of any kind of curry or dal really, but seeing as how I love spinach so much and I was in the mood for potatoes I decided to give this one a shot. Though I’ve had this cook book for several months now I’ve only cooked one other dish from it. The Mu Shu Veggies, which were excellent. Since vegan mofo is a time of food and recipe experimentation for so many people I thought this the perfect opportunity to try this dish.

Now maybe it’s just me but it always seems that no matter what recipe I’m working from the Indian food I make at home can just never compare to restaurant Indian food. Maybe there’s some sort of Indian trick I’m not privy to, but that aside I thought this was a really great dish. The flavors were good, the sauce wasn’t too watery nor too thick, and the texture was good. It’s also fantastic that this dish can be made so fast. With such a quick cooking time you could easily make this dish for lunch or dinner, or if you’ve got a busy schedule you can whip this up in no time on a Sunday night and have it all week long.

As far as alteration go I didn’t change much. I did add about 6oz more spinach, 2 extra potatoes, and used a large onion instead of a small one. Subsequently I had to add in a bit more milk for the sauce and a pinch more of each spice to equal it out, but I didn’t add anything else or take anything away. Though I think next time I might try making this dish with coconut milk instead for a creamier richer texture and flavor.

Vegan Mofo # 26 Donna’s Tomato-Rice Soup...

Vegan Mofo # 26 Donna’s Tomato-Rice Soup

The Book - The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen
The Author - Donna Klein
The Recipe -Tomato-Rice Soup
Page - 47
Difficulty - Easy
Duration - 45-60 minutes

When it comes to tomato soup, I’ve never been a fan. In fact since I was a child I’ve had a very strong - but not unjustified - aversion to it. Just looking at tomato soup or tomato sauce, particularly watching someone else eat it could be enough to make me gag. You see, when I was three I had a traumatic experience. I was excited to see my aunt who had just returned from Saudi Arabia, it had been raining out and in my excitement I neglected to remove my wet shoes when I entered my Oma’s house. As I excitedly ran through the kitchen, my wet feet slipped on her shiny linoleum floor and I fell, striking the linoleum front teeth first. My front teeth impacted right into my gums, and the blood just came pouring out. I know it hurt, but I don’t remember the pain. I remember my aunt holding me over the kitchen sink, rinsing my mouth out with cold water to try and slow the bleeding. I remember a cold rag being pressed into my mouth to dull the pain and soak up the blood, and I remember being rocked comfortingly in my Oma’s darkened living room. I have absolutely no memory of the dental surgery I went through afterwards, nor do I recall much of the few weeks that followed the incident, but one thing I do remember is tomato soup.

Canned tomato soup was one of the only things I could eat since it didn’t require me to chew, so for two weeks that’s pretty much all I ate. Now I was never that fond of tomato soup to begin with, so you can imagine how I felt after two weeks of being forced to eat it. For years and years after that I couldn’t even bare the thought of eating something that looked like tomato soup. I couldn’t even eat marinara sauce or any other kind of red sauce on spaghetti. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I could finally bring myself to eat tomato sauce or marinara, but I still couldn’t do tomato soup. Over the years I’ve become more open and accepting of saucy tomato dishes but it wasn’t until last month that I actually made and ate my first tomato soup since I was 3! It was a tomato saffron soup, and though I was skeptical, and though I still had awful memories of it, something inside me convinced me to make it. Surprisingly I loved it! It was delicious!

Then one afternoon last week I was flipping through my copy of The Mediterranean vegan Kitchen, browsing the soup section as it was a cold day and I was in the mood for a warming dish, I happened across this tomato rice soup. It reminded me of the tomato-rice soup my Oma makes. A soup which all my relatives seem to enjoy but which I can’t recall ever eating. I remember it always smelled good though, and thinking about those old days growing up my stomach suddenly started grumbling and I decided what the heck? I liked the last one, why not this one?

I bit the bullet and made it, and I was really surprised at how it turned out. I quite liked it although it wasn’t seasoned enough for me. I added much more basil, parsley, oregano, thyme and pepper then she suggests. Also using Aborrio rice is great if you want to cut down your cooking time and if you prefer a softer rice texture but I think next time I would use brown rice, as it yields a firmer texture and my opinion a better taste not to mention better quality nutrition. Also next time I think I would add in a can of tomato paste, I would have liked a stronger more powerful tomato flavor. Maybe it was just my tomatoes, maybe they weren’t ripe enough but I thought the tomato flavor in this soup was rather mild. In the end though this soup didn’t taste exactly as I had imagined it would I did enjoy it and my husband loved it. Served with some crusty Italian bread and a small salad on the side it’s the perfect way to end a cold winter night. I will definitely make this soup again with the above mentioned changes.

I am happy about the fact that I can finally eat tomato soup, although I have a very strong feeling that my acceptance of tomato soup is limited only to tomato soups that I make myself. I can’t imagine ever being able to eat a can of tomato soup, and I doubt I’ll ever feel the desire to eat tomato soup in a restaurant or someone else’s home. To this day I can’t drink tomato juice either, which I suppose isn’t such a bad thing right?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Vegan Mofo # 25 Terry’s Pan-Seared Sweet Corn...

Vegan Mofo # 25 Terry’s Pan-Seared Sweet Corn

The Book - Clean Start
The Author - Terry Walters
The Recipe - Pan-Seared Sweet Corn
Page - 102
Difficulty - Easy
Duration - 30 minutes

This is another one of those dishes that I’ve been wanting to make for a while, but it seems that every time I was geared up to make it in the past something happened to foil my plans. That is until last night, when everything finally came together. This dish is phenomenal, hands down amazing!

Like most of Terry’s recipe this dish is quick and easy to prepare however it does require some advanced planning. Mainly just making sure you have the corn on the cob and set aside the time to soak it. Also like most of her recipes the ingredients are few, but the flavor is loaded. In this wonderful dish there is the most perfect blend of sweet, heat and a delicate twist of sour from the lime juice.

Though this dish is listed in the fall chapter I think this would be a perfect dish to serve as a side during Spring, Summer or Fall. It would be perfect to bring to a bbq to serve alongside some veggie burgers and potato salad. It’s wonderful as part of a Thanksgiving feast, or serve it with something simple. I ended up serving it alongside Terry’s Sauteed Greens with Leeks and Garlic and it was incredible.

As far as recipe alterations go all I did was add a full onion and a full red pepper rather then a half of each. I also added in a squirt more lime juice and a pinch more chili powder. Otherwise I followed the directions exactly. Seriously this Pan-Seared Sweet Corn is a must try!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vegan Mofo #24 Colleen’s Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crust...

Vegan Mofo #24 Colleen’s Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crust

The Book - The Joy of Vegan Baking
The Author - Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
The Recipe - Pumpkin Pie & Pecan Crust
Page - Pie #104 Crust # 213
Difficulty - Easy
Duration - Pie - Roughly 1 hour for prep and bake time 2 hours cool time. Crust - 20-30 minutes

Pumpkin Pie, is there any better way to celebrate autumn? Is there any dessert more perfect to serve after your Thanksgiving feast? I think not. I love pumpkin pie, absolutely adore it. Honestly I love pumpkin flavored anything, but pumpkin pie in particular is one of my favorite sweet treats. It’s the sort of thing I only eat maybe two or three times a year, so each holiday season I really look forward to it. It’s so warming, and comforting, and the aroma is so heavenly that it really locks you into the moment. There’s nothing better then enjoying a good sized slice with a cup of tea after a good holiday meal.

As much as I love pumpkin pie however I notice at least amongst my friends that it seems to be something of an acquired taste. So many people hate pumpkin pie, my husband amongst them. Since I see no reason in baking an entire pie just for myself each Thanksgiving, I hadn’t baked a pumpkin pie in the years since we’d been married. That all changed this year though when I invited my good friends J and L for Thanksgiving, both of whom enjoy pumpkin pie.

I was very excited to try Colleen’s recipe, and have had my eye on it since I first got "The Joy of Vegan Baking" a year ago. However I was a little concerned about the ingredients. You see she uses tofu in the recipe and I really try to avoid using tofu in baking things like pies or cakes. I find such things baked with tofu usually have a chalky consistency and a soy aftertaste. Maybe my tastebuds are just sensitive to the taste of soy because so often that’s all I can taste in certain baked goods, dips, sauces etc... and I always find it unpleasant. Of course since Colleen has never steered me wrong before I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.

First I started by making her Pecan Crust. I’ve never had a pecan crust on a pumpkin pie before and originally I was going to make a simple traditional pie crust, but I was also making an apple pie and decided it wasn’t worth the time or the trouble to make that much crust from scratch. The pecan crust was so much simpler, and faster. I am so glad I decided to use it, because in the end it was phenomenal. The taste was amazing, the texture was great and it went so well with the pumpkin flavor that I can’t believe I’d never thought to use a pecan crust before. The two were a perfect marriage, and in the end I wasn’t sure which I liked more the pie or the crust!

When making the crust I followed the recipe exactly, however when it came to the filling I ended up doing things just a little bit differently. After opening my tofu and squeezing out what water I could - I may have bought the wrong kind here, the recipe calls for silken firm but the store didn’t have any that said silken and firm on the same package whoops! - because it was nearly impossible to squeeze out the water. After adding just over half the contents of the package to my food processor which already contained the pumpkin puree, the spices and a third of a cup of Maple syrup - it was suppose to be a half cup but I ran out - the mix was looking a little too thin and watery. I added in the half cup of brown sugar, along with the remaining ingredients blended it all together, tested it and decided not only was it indeed more liquid then solid but it was also very under-spiced in my opinion, and I could definitely taste tofu. After a bit of fiddling and fussing I ended up adding in much more cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg then the recipe originally called for along with extra corn starch and just a little over 1 cup of brown sugar. By that point I’d tasted the batter several times and never really found myself convinced but I decided what the heck, what more could I do? Tired of messing around and eager to get on to the next holiday task I ended up pouring the filling into the pie crust and popping it into the oven. As it baked it smelled incredible and so I hoped for the best. When it came back out I gently pressed the toasted pecan halves into the pie and again hoped for the best.

I’ll tell you, in my life I’ve eaten a lot of different pumpkin pies, prepared by a lot of different people. A lot of home made, a lot of store bought, almost all of them non-vegan and this pumpkin pie was hands down one of the best I’d ever eaten. No lie. It was the best pumpkin pie I’d ever made, and I can’t at the moment recall any pumpkin pie I might have eaten that was better. Absolutely fantastic and my guests seemed to enjoy it as well! There certainly wasn’t too much left over at the end of the night. This has now become my go to pumpkin pie, and just FYI it’s completely necessary to add a dollop of rice or soy whip to your slice. I have never liked whip cream, but pumpkin pie was always the one exception. They go together like love and marriage.

Vegan Mofo #23 Terry’s Sauteed Greens with Leeks and Garlic...

Vegan Mofo #23 Terry’s Sauteed Greens with Leeks and Garlic

The Book - Clean Start
The Author - Terry Walters
The Recipe - Sauteed Greens with Leeks and Garlic
Page - 108
Difficulty - Easy
Duration - 10-15 minutes

This dish is a revelation. Since I bought "Clean Start" I’ve probably made this dish at least two dozen times. I make it at least a couple of times a month, at least once a week during the summer. It’s quick, and easy. Full of flavor but light on ingredients, and it’s packed full of nutrition. It’s also pretty light on oil, using only 1 tbsp for the whole dish which is pretty cool. Another thing I love about this dish is that you can eat it as a side or if you make enough of it you can eat it as a meal. It’s both filling and extremely satisfying.

There’s also a lot of room to be creative here. Terry notes that you can use any dark leafy greens you like. Mustard, Collards, Chard, Kale etc... or a combination, you could also switch it up by using red or sweet onion instead of leek, and grated ginger and turmeric instead of garlic. You could even use maple syrup or agave instead of Mirin. However I prefer to use Kale as my green of choice and I generally make this dish the way the recipe says. Kale just tastes so good combined with garlic and leeks, not to mention the addition of Ume vinegar and sesame seeds. A more perfect combination I can not think of.

Trust me when I say you NEED to try this dish. It’s sweet, salty and garlicy what more could you want? I also strongly urge that if you don’t have a copy of Clean Start you seriously check it out. Whether you flip through it at the book store, borrow it from the library or purchase it you should definitely give it a look. There are a lot of great recipes in here, this is just one of them.

Vegan Mofo #22 Isa’s Fresh Mango Summer Rolls...

Vegan Mofo #22 Isa’s Fresh Mango Summer Rolls

The Book - Vegan With A Vengeance
The Author - Isa Chandra Moskowitz
The Recipe - Fresh Mango Summer Rolls
Page - 84
Difficulty - Easy
Duration - Roughly 30 minutes

Since I was little I have loved Asian and Asian fusion food. Thai, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Indonesian you name it I love it. One of my favorite appetizer dishes has always been spring rolls, summer rolls or egg rolls. Each region has a different twist on this popular dish and I love them all. Though as much as I love these perfect little rolls I’d never tried making them myself until I got a copy of Isa’s ‘Vegan with a Vengeance’ and found this recipe.

I love this recipe because it’s such a wonderfully creative and delicious take on your usual summer roll. I am definitely the kind of person who likes to ‘jazz things up in the kitchen’ and as much as I love ‘traditional’ rolls I always find it refreshing when someone takes a few steps more towards originality. I’ll say that at first I wasn’t sure how mango and peanuts would taste wrapped up in here, but I should have known there’d be no reason to worry. These Summer rolls are amazing, and so refreshing.

The combination of fresh mango, rice noodles, cilantro, peanuts and bean sprouts is magic, and they’re surprisingly really easy to make. I don’t know why I went all those years feeling so intimidated by the prospect of making my own rolls from scratch. I make sushi from scratch for Buddha’s sake, and that’s a heck of a lot harder! There is basically no cooking in this recipe which is great! The only thing that needs to be cooked is the rice noodles and cooked is a generous word. You boil water and let them soak for 10 minutes how easy is that? Rice paper wrappers are even easier. You soak them in cold water till they’re pliable - about 30 seconds - and then you lay them on a flat clean surface, fill them and roll them. The water dries and the rice paper sticks to itself. Easy-peasy! You do however need to use a delicate hand otherwise the thin rice paper will tear, but even then it’s easy to kind of ‘glue’ your roll back together.

There are only two things I did differently. 1) I added a bit of shredded carrot and sliced green onions to the rolls along with the listed ingredients. Simply because I love green onions in everything and I had an excess of carrots that needed using. 2) I didn’t make Isa’s Thai Dipping Sauce that accompanies the recipe because I was in the mood for Almond sauce and I have a good personal recipe that I enjoy using. My husband isn’t a fan of almond or peanut sauces and so he slathered his rolls in a combination of garlic soy sauce and agave as well as a generous dollop of Thai Kitchen’s Sweet Thai Chili Sauce.

These rolls are really great and super easy to whip up for a party or as an appetizer. However the recipe does make quite a few so you may even want to consider eating them as a light lunch or dinner along with a nice salad. Which is what we did. They’re plenty filling, trust me!

PS: In retrospect I see I should have taken a picture of the inside of one of the rolls, but we were just in such a hurry to eat it never happened. Woops!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vegan Mofo #21 Terry’s Black Current Plum Crisp...

Vegan Mofo #21 Terry’s Black Current Plum Crisp

The Book - Clean Start
The Author - Terry Walters
The Recipe - Black Current Plum Crisp
Page # 85
Difficulty - Easy
Duration - Roughly 1 hour

Who doesn’t love a crisp? They’re so warm, gooey and soul satisfying. The perfect sweet treat to accompany a hearty yet simple autumn or winter dinner. Apple crisp always seems to be the popular favorite, it’s the one with which people are most familiar, but I love inventive and creative crisps that use a variety of ‘non-traditional’ fruits and pairings. So when I saw this recipe in Clean Start I was immediately drawn to it. I love plums, and yet had never thought to use them along with currents in a crisp before. Even though this recipe is listed under the ‘Summer’ section of the book when plums began flooding my local groceries here in mid September I promptly bought up about four pounds, and the first thing I did with them was set to work on this crisp.

My husband is not a huge lover of plums, stone fruit in general I think don’t quite catch his fancy. So I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about this crisp, and I suppose to tell the truth I wasn’t sure how much I’d like it either. What with the seemingly strange additions of coconut oil, currents and almonds. Turns out neither of us had to worry, the crisp exceeded all of my wildest expectations. It was moist, gooey, well spiced and delicious. It had everything you could possibly want in a crisp and no one flavor shone more brightly then another. It was a perfect marriage of late summer early autumn flavor.

I was however forced to make one change to this recipe. I did not have teff flour on hand and wasn’t in the mood to drive out and buy some. So instead I used extra Almond meal, and rolled oats to replace the teff flour. You can do the same though if you’re gluten free make sure you get gluten free oats. Taste wise it was delicious and I’m fairly certain I wasn’t missing anything by neglecting to use teff flour. Also a wonderful idea is serving this crisp alongside a large scoop of Vanilla Almond Milk Ice cream. Mm-mm....

Vegan Mofo #20 - Isa’s Caesar Salad with Eggplant Bacon and Caesar Chavez Dressing...

Vegan Mofo #20 - Isa’s Caesar Salad with Eggplant Bacon and Caesar Chavez Dressing

The Book - Appetite for Reduction
The Author - Isa Chandra Moskowitz
The Recipe - Caesar Salad with Eggplant Bacon and Caesar Chavez Dressing
Page # 42
Difficulty - Easy
Duration - 20 minutes of prep time, 30 minutes of bake time

Caesar Salad is one of those dishes that seems to be universally loved. Everyone and their grandmother loves a Caesar salad, and everyone’s got their own perfect recipe or way of preparing one. Every North American or Mediterranean style restaurant you walk into seems to have it listed under their salad section, and most restaurants offer it as a side in place of their ‘House Salad’ It’s probably the single easiest way to get a kid to eat something green. However at this point the people’s love of Caesar seems to go far beyond it’s use for salad. I see people dipping their fries and baked or broiled chicken in cups of Caesar dressing. I see people pour it over potatoes, smear it on burgers, drizzle it over pizza or simply dunk their pizza into it. I see people poke bread sticks into it and mix it into rice. People it seems have gone Caesar crazy.

Honestly I was no exception. I loved a good Caesar salad as much as the next girl. To me Caesar salad is summer in a bowl. It is the epitome of summer, always forcing its way onto the buffet table at parties, gatherings, Barbeque’s, and stowing itself away to picnic’s. And really, what better example of summer could you have then a full plate containing a burger, fries, grilled corn on the cob and a nice hearty pile of Caesar salad? It fits right in, and makes you feel at home. The dressing is rich and creamy. It’s tangy and almost sour but a little bit sweet, and gives you a wonderful mouth feel when combined with super crisp romaine. A person’s mouth could water just thinking about it.

My mom made a lot of Caesar salad during the summers when I was growing up. She made a wicked good Caesar too, and all of us would devour it. Eventually she started making huge almost industrial sized bowls of it to accommodate our insatiable appetite for it, and more often then not it still wasn’t enough. It was definitely one of my favorite things to eat growing up. Yet over the two years before I went Vegan, it wasn’t something I ate much of. I don’t really know why, I wasn’t going out of my way to avoid it or anything but I guess I had kind of lost my taste for it. As I got older Caesar became one of those things that I still loved, but could only handle in smaller quantities. Something about that dressing just made my mouth ache, and my stomach bloat, and if I consumed to much I often felt very lethargic and kind of ill afterwards. So when I went Vegan I didn’t worry myself about finding a vegan Caesar substitute, it had never crossed my mind. Then I got my hands on a copy of "Appetite for Reduction" and there in the salad section was a Vegan Caesar.

Now I hadn’t thought about Caesar salad in a long time, yet seeing that recipe just got my mouth watering and my memory bank flowing. I remembered all those great summer moments, all those barbeques, and picnics where Caesar was prominently featured and I wanted to enjoy that again. I wanted to have that traditional barbequed summer dinner again, and I wanted to take pleasure in an old comfort. Honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect. The list of ingredients sounded strange together and I just couldn’t imagine them being comparable to an omni Caesar salad, but I kid you not, this is the best vegan Caesar salad I’ve ever eaten, maybe the best Caesar salad period. It tasted exactly like what I remember Caesar salad to taste like. Rich, creamy, and tangy, and the best part? Not only does it not contain any dairy ingredients but there are also no anchovies! I don’t know if you know this but traditional Caesar salad dressing whether it’s store-bought or restaurant made contains either anchovies or anchovies paste. Ew! Right? Anchovies are not something I would have ever eaten as an omnivore, and growing up I had no idea they were the secret ingredient that gave Caesar salad it’s characteristic tang and flavor. I think a lot of people are ignorant of that fact, and it’s something I found very disturbing when it was eventually revealed to me. So no ground up fish in your dressing, yay! What Isa uses instead are capers, miso, lemon juice and Dijon mustard. Mixed together with her other dressing ingredients this combination makes the most Caesary Caesar ever. I also love the fact that she doesn’t include a vegan Parmesan substitute like so many other Vegan Caesar recipes. In this dressing it’s really not needed.

Now as if I haven’t gushed about this salad enough the recipe also includes a batch of eggplant bacon which is absolutely divine. She uses very few ingredients and the technique is super simple but the flavor is powerful and when tossed into the salad you can hardly tell the difference. Between it and those terrible little processed ‘bacon crumbles’ people always use.

So if you love or loved Caesar salad I strongly urge you to give this one a shot. Like I said it’s the best I’ve had, and I don’t say that lightly.

PS: I forgot to take a picture of the salad on it’s own, but you get the idea here I think. I’d paired it one lovely evening with a delicious veggie burger that I’d topped with homemade guacamole, romaine, tomato, onion, alfalfa and agave sweetened BBQ sauce. Delish!

Vegan Mofo #19 - Easy Vegan’s Grilled Eggplant With Salmoriglio Dressing...

Vegan Mofo #19 - Easy Vegan’s Grilled Eggplant With Salmoriglio Dressing

The Book - Easy Vegan
The Author -
The Recipe - Grilled Eggplant with Salmoriglio Dressing
Page # 91
Difficulty - Easy
Duration - 1 hour

I know I’ve sort of dropped the ball on Vegan Mofo the past couple of days, and I apologize for that. I’ve just been so much more exhausted then I expected to be, and the adjustment from two weeks of lush tropical beauty and relaxation back to the cold, dreary and hyper-intense Midwest has been a lot harder then I anticipated. On top of that the gods of technology have forced my hand into buying a new computer. My nearly 8 year old Dell has zero memory left, a broken disk drive, an inability to connect to Itunes, and a handful of other programs and just all around isn’t cutting it anymore. So I’ve been a bit preoccupied with that. I’ll do my best to make up for it by posting as much as possible for the remaining days of Mofo but no promises. I don’t want to make promises I’m not sure I can keep.

For the moment though I’d like to share with you a dish that I’m happy to say really surprised me. I know a lot of people who hate eggplant, and many more who won’t even dare to try it, so some of you may be skeptical upon first glance but trust me when I say to you this is like no eggplant dish you’ve ever tasted. I too I admit have never been a huge fan of eggplant. I’ve never despised it like some, it just simply wasn’t a vegetable I went out of my way to eat. It’s also one of those few foods I can only tolerate if cooked a certain way. (Usually fried in oil or brushed in oil and grilled) My husband however really likes eggplant, and since the picture of this recipe just looked so beautiful and tasty I could hardly resist making it for him.

Brushing eggplant and grilling it is almost always a win for me, but even so I was skeptical about this dish - which by the way is listed under the salad section, though I think it could just as easily be eaten as an appetizer, or a side dish - mainly because aside from the dressing eggplant is the only thing in it. Too me that just seemed like too much eggplant. The surprise is that it’s not. It may sound crazy and ridiculous when I say the eggplant in this dish is not overpowering, but it really isn’t all thanks to the wonderful zesty salmoriglio dressing.

The salmoriglio truly steals the show. Full of simple ingredients and quick to prepare it’s absolutely divine. It’s got that fantastic tang of lemon, a perfect combination of garlic and parsley, a meager hint of sweet, and that almost sour briney bite that is so characteristic of capers. When poured over the eggplant and left to marinate for a while each slice of eggplant becomes infused with this tantalizing combination. It’s all you can taste in every bite, and each bite will no doubt have you ooing and awing and begging for more until the plate’s been cleaned.

If you like garlic as much as I do then I recommend adding in a bit more to your liking, otherwise the dressing is perfect as is. I also strongly recommend that you let the eggplant marinate for the full 30 minutes suggested in the book, but that if you have more time to marinate it longer. The longer you marinate the eggplant the more profound the flavor will be, and I would suggest marinating for one or two hours total. It is well worth the little bit of extra time, and as long as you’re prepared and organized the extra marinating time won’t interfere with the rest of your dinner or your day. As always enjoy, and please, even if you’re skeptical about the eggplant consider giving this dish a try and you might just change your mind.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Vegan Mofo #18 -Lauren’s Stuffed Banana Berry French Toast...

Vegan Mofo #18 -Lauren’s Stuffed Banana Berry French Toast

The Book - "Vegan Yum Yum"
The Author - Lauren Ulm
The Recipe - Stuffed Banana Berry French Toast
Page # 28
Difficulty - Easy but time Consuming
Duration - Roughly 45 minutes total time

My husband loves French Toast, I on the other hand never cared much one way or the other for it. I guess I just didn’t get what was so great or delicious about frying bread and then drenching it in syrup. Over the years spent with my husband I’ve come around a little to French Toast, and I have to say I make a pretty mean batch of vanilla cinnamon French Toast, but I rarely ever make it. I guess I figure if I’m going to go to all the trouble of cooking something for breakfast I might as well make pancakes or waffles. However when I opened "Vegan Yum Yum" up to the breakfast section I saw her inspiring, mouth watering French Toast concoction and just knew I had to make it.

This recipe does take a bit of time, not to long mind you but it isn’t the kind of thing you can whip up in five minutes before going to work on Monday morning. This is the kind of decedent breakfast you make for you and your sweetie on a special occasion or when you both have the day off together. Trust me when I tell you that the time it takes and the dishes it uses are well worth it. This is one of the most delicious French Toast recipes I’ve ever made, just thinking about it gets me salivating!

What you do is take day old bread - I used French - slice it into super thick rounds, then stuff each round with a mixture of thinly sliced bananas, and berries. Brilliant! I love berries and bananas are always a great breakfast food! Then you very carefully fry your stuffed bread rounds and serve them drizzled with sweet strawberry sauce, powdered sugar, and maple syrup if you so desire. I can not stress enough just how fantastic this recipe is. The berries and banana pair perfectly with the strawberry sauce - which Ulm claims is optional but I think it’s pretty damn necessary and you’d be doing your tastebuds a great disservice by not making it - and the spiced, vanilla accented toast. Also this is a super filling breakfast so it’ll keep you going strong till lunch, or even dinner.

As far as alterations go I followed the recipe pretty exactly, just adding in a bit more cinnamon and I used unsweetened almond milk instead of soy just because that’s what I had on hand. So if you have a French Toast lover in your house I implore you to make this. Even if you - like me - think you don’t like French Toast, give this a try and you might just come around!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Vegan Mofo #17 - Colleen’s Blueberry Cake...

Vegan Mofo #17 - Colleen’s Blueberry Cake

The Book - The Joy of Vegan Baking
The Author - Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
The Recipe - Blueberry Cake
Page # 79
Difficulty - Easy
Duration - Roughly 1 hour

Who doesn’t love blueberries? I know my husband and I do, we can’t get enough of them, especially during the summer. They’re one of life’s most perfect foods in my opinion, so delicious and refreshing and not too sweet. I love them in everything from a smoothie to a salad, to a slice of pie but aside from the occasional batch of blueberry pancakes they’re not a fruit I use much in baking. Probably because they never last long enough in my fridge! However one summer afternoon I was flipping through my cook books, searching for a delicious dessert to bring to a party I was going to. I wanted something impressive, yet new, as I get sick of baking and eating the same things all the time. Since we love blueberries so much, and my husband loves coffee cake this recipe naturally caught my eye whilst I was thumbing through my copy of "The Joy of Vegan Baking"

It fit all the stipulations I’d set in place. It was something I’d never baked before, it was something that certainly sounded delicious and impressive and it was something I knew no one else would bring. In other words an instant win, and I was right. The party goers ate it up, and I got so many compliments throughout the night. In the end I was left with only a tiny sliver of cake, and a room of smiling faces.

This is a perfect cake recipe, and I don’t say that lightly. I have never been a fan of cake. A lot of people are die hard cake lovers, especially when it comes to chocolate cake, but I have never felt that way. Give me a slice of pie, a scone a turnover or a bowl of ice cream for dessert and I’m happy. Cake on the other hand I could live without, but ths cake - oh man! This cake is very light, and very moist. Not too sweet but just sweet enough which I love and it packs one hell of a blueberry flavor. It’s a great cake to bake when blueberries are in season, a great cake to bring to a summer BBQ, or a fall get together. Trust me when I say your friends and family will be salivating and begging you for the recipe.

As far as changes go I only made one. I added cinnamon, but that’s because I love it and I generally add it into every baked good recipe I make whether the recipe calls for it or not. Just one of my little quirks. You can use either fresh or frozen berries. I suggest using fresh when they’re in season and frozen when they’re not. I used frozen and doing so is going to make your cake a bit more juicy. In fact there may come a point where you think it’ll never fully cook because the blueberry juice is bubbling so much, but trust me it will, just give it time and have faith. Using the frozen berries is probably what makes the cake so moist so I definitely recommend giving it a try, and as always enjoy!

Vegan Mofo #16 - Robin’s Finger Licking Tempeh Fingers...

Vegan Mofo #16 - Robin’s Finger Licking Tempeh Fingers

The Book - "Party Vegan"
The Author - Robin Robertson
The Recipe - Finger Licking Tempeh Fingers
Page # 145
Difficulty - Easy
Duration - 30-40 minutes total time

I have returned! I had a wonderful vacation though two weeks wasn’t long enough - It never is right? - and though I’m sad to be back I am happy to be returning to finish up Vegan Mofo. I have a lot of blogs and comments to catch up on, but it’s going to take some time, as I’m still exhausted from the trip, so bare with me. Today’s posts are also going to be short but sweet, but tomorrow I’ll be back in full force, and once Vegan Mofo is over I can’t wait to tell you all about my vacation!

Here in the Midwest fall is in full swing, which means soups, roasted vegetables, hot pots, stews and comfort foods. Yet I’ve just come from the tropics where everyday it’s in the mid 80's. Summer weather, and one thing I’ve always loved about summer is Barbeque! I love Barbeque, and I always have. There’s something so divine about that delicious blend of sweet, tangy and smokey sauce. I love thick, gooey bbq sauce that completely smothers whatever you put it on. When I was an omnivore, even though I’ve never been partial to pork, ribs were the one thing I always enjoyed. When I first went vegan I was worried I’d never again be able to enjoy bbq, but boy was I wrong. Now that I’m vegan I realize it wasn’t the ribs that I found so delicious it was the sauce! In fact I’d always found the meat itself to be quite a pain to eat. Chewy, gristly, greasy, it always got stuck in my teeth, and more often then not gave me a gut-ache when I was finished. All those years I’d it was ribs that I loved and as it turned out what I truly wanted was the sauce, the ribs had just provided the vehicle for the sauce to arrive at my mouth.

Now I see there are many great animal-free vehicles for good ole’ bbq. You can make an exquisite bbq Tofu, Seitan, or Tempeh dinner, and slathering bbq sauce on a good hearty veggie burger is still one of my favorite ways to use a bit of bbq. Generally I’m not a huge fan of Tempeh. It’s one of those foods I can only take in small doses, and only if cooked certain ways, but smothered and simmered in bbq is definitely one of those ways! This recipe works really well, the sauce is thick and sweet with a touch of tang and a hint of heat. The Tempeh is moist and tender with none of the bitterness that is often associated with tempeh.

As far as alterations go I think I only played around with the seasonings a little. Adding in more cumin and coriander. More garlic and a pinch of onion powder. Otherwise I kept pretty faithful to the original recipe. Though both my husband and I think this would work even better as a shredded ‘pulled pork’ kind of dish, served on a bun with a bit of lettuce, tomato and onion.