Monday, February 26, 2007

Cupcakes Cometh!

O.K., O.K., I know this is supposed to be a MEAT alternatives and protein focused blog, but I have had several special occasions (see previous post!) to make some pretty special cupcakes, and I just had to post on them! They are so beautiful... Thank you, to Isa and her cookbook, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I hadn't made cupcakes in years until I bought this adorable book, but her ideas are so unique, I cannot help but try them!

Here are the Dulce Sin Leche cupcakes, first with the coconut, and then without (because some people don' t like coconut - I know, how weird!). I was moaning as I ate them - literally!

These are the German Chocolate cupcakes with Coconut Pecan frosting. I tasted the frosting quite a bit .... just had to make sure it was good to eat!! :)

Now, don't fret - I will post the very next time about, "how to get your protein!" I've been making chilis and soups and stews these past few weeks, as winter makes its last calling. We got several inches of snow yesterday, which in Virginia means, no school. Once in a while, I really enjoy being a teacher! (No, seriously, I love my job!).

Monday, February 12, 2007

Happy Vegan Birthday!

So delicious I could scream! And beautiful to boot.

These were the Coconut Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream Frosting, from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. In celebration of my (not 20, not 40) decade achievement this past Friday, I made these to share with my birthday twin in Brooklyn, NY. We both love coconut more than anything, and have a history of eating it straight out of the bag! We usually mail each other coconut gifts, but this year we were able to celebrate together! So, with coconut oil, coconut extract, dried coconut and coconut milk, these cupcakes were perfect! (I also made coconut lime cookies from Vive le Vegan! - too delish for words!).

But the highlight of our special day (for me) was visiting Candle Cafe in Manhattan, which was all that I'd dreamed it to be (although a little steep in price but what the heck? It's my birthday and the husband is getting the bill :)

This is what I had: cashew crusted tofu with roasted butternut squash puree over black rice pilaf and greens.

And this is what my friend had: seitan stuffed bell pepper with green beans. I think that hers was better than mine! Hubby had a chili seitan sandwich, which was also excellent, but he scarfed it down before I got a photo.

But the best of all, was the huge, thick, sweet but tangy piece of carrot cake - possibly the best I've ever had (sorry Mum and Dad!). Thank you, Candle Cafe, for this moment: "Which desserts are vegan?" "All of them!!" (just had to check!)

One last photo: as we were leaving, I noticed that Candle Cafe was located directly next door to (don't know if you can see it): Le Bistro Steak!!!

Here's to another thirty yummy, vegan years!

Monday, February 05, 2007

The History of Seitan....

I promised, several posts back, to post the history, tips, and uses for seitan. Well, here it finally is! I found the fact that seitan (and the other meat alternatives) are so ancient, completely amusing, considering the funny looks you get for mentioning what so many assume to be a, "new wave," product!

This particular photo is of Seitan with Portobello Mushrooms and Red Wine Sauce, from the book, "366 Ways to Cook Tofu and Other Meat Alternatives," by Robin Robertson. It is so incredibly easy, juicy, and almost elegant! I served it with red quinoa, an unusual type I found at my local Ukrop's grocery store. At the time, I didn't have portobello mushrooms on hand, so I used cremini and button, but I have made it with the portobello before and I think it's definitely better that way! Enjoy!

The Long History of Seitan and What the *$! To Do With It:

Pronunciation: Sigh, unfortunately, this IS pronounced much like the devil himself, "SAY-tahn." Of course, you can mumble when you pronounce it and emphasize the second syllable, so that people don't think you're crazy to eat, "say-TAHN." It even sounds more glamorous, don't you think?

What is it? (How it's made): Also known as "wheat-meat," seitan is made from the protein part of the wheat seed (gluten- sorry to those who are allergic!). Traditional seitan is made from rinsing and kneading the starch out of wheat flour. It is then shaped and simmered in a broth and/or soy sauce. The result is a chewy, meat-like product that is as versatile as chicken (and tastes suspiciously like it, too....but less stringy and dry)!

History: The truth behind the following is not for sure, but it does make sense, combined with knowledge about Buddhist cuisine: Seventh century Buddhist monks were looking for a meat alternative besides tofu. As they were making a dough out of wheat and flour, the starch rinsed off and they had "wheat meat." Today, it is called, "Buddha's Food." It was the Japanese who developed the process of simmering it in soy sauce and seasonings.

We do know that seitan has been popular in the Asian countries for centuries, while only recently becoming popular in America, thanks to the Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons and the macrobiotic diet (Timothy Aitken, Vegetarian Times magazine article, Feb. 1997).

Health benefits: High in protein, low in cholesterol and fat, there isn't much else to say!

Myths and tips: You may ask, "What the *** is it??" Now that you read the "what is it" and "history" part of this page (if you didn't, then just scroll up), it ain't so scary, now is it? In fact, this is probably the best meat-alternative to use when trying to entice (or trick!) meat eaters. It has the best meat texture among all other meat alternatives. Try it once and you're hooked!

Tip: You can buy pre-made seitan at Whole Foods Market, but I haven't seen this at local stores or even Ukrop's yet. White Wave, the company of the product at the top of this page, is a company well-known for its tofu and soy products. But seitan is not so cheap to buy, when it is pre-made.

Tip: Make your own seitan and save money! Use Vital Wheat-Gluten (I found this at Ukrop's grocery store, an Arrowhead Mills product) and follow the directions in either a vegan cookbook (like La Dolce Vegan! or Vegan with a Vengeance) or at an online source. The longer you simmer it, the firmer it gets. You can also buy Seitan Quick Mix from Harvest Direct.

Common uses: Seitan is used much like any meat alternative (fake meat). It can be baked, stir-fried, put in stews or chilies, stuffed into vegetables (or egg rolls- see below!) usual, the possibilities are endless! (So, why do people insist on asking, "What do you eat?!")