Sunday, March 29, 2009


I feel so bad for non-vegans/vegetarians...they are missing out on so much good food!!!

This week, I think I had some of the best meals I've ever had, starting with these Spicy Moroccan Chickpea Tacos from a recent Vegetarian Times issue. I don't normally go for meat-analogues (I don't miss meat and don't want to pretend that I'm eating a dead animal) but these included Morningstar Farms seitan strips ("chicken") which happen to vegan. These were like the fourth taco recipe I've had from that one issue on "global tacos," and they blew the others right out of the water! (sorry for the violent image...). They were spicy, tender, filling and full of incredible flavors! With baby spinach and wrapped in whole wheat-flax soft tacos, I was in heaven! Unfortunately, the recipe didn't make a whole lot, so I didn't get too many yummy leftovers, but this is definitely a recipe I'll be making again! Four stars for sure ****, maybe 5!! (Again, my rating is 1-4 stars, so this means it was awesome!!).

This next picture doesn't do the recipe justice. It was the Raunchy Red Lentil Soup from Vegan A Go-Go! It was lickety-split easy and lickety-spoon good! Four stars.... ****. This'll be my lunch this week. I made it while the black beans were cooking for....

Black Bean and Banana Empanadas! I'm not a big pastry fan, since they're typically not too healthy (this one was made with soy shortening - only 4 tbsp for the whole recipe, but still...) but these were pretty easy and OMG good. Four, maybe even off-the-scale 5 star good! ****. Very filling and spicy and savory and a hint of sweet - great with the side of sauteed kale.

Here's the filling: black beans (which I soaked all day and cooked this afternoon - did you know they have many more nutrients than the canned kind? I may be off canned beans for good!), along with cilantro, two sliced bananas, cumin, cayenne, coriander, onion and garlic. I could eat the filling by itself! (Which I might sometime - it'd be good over rice!).

I did have to make the dough (easy) and chill it for at least an hour, but dividing and rolling the balls out was really simple and quick. They were so cute! The pastry dough used more than half of whole wheat flour. Yay for whole grains! These were from either the February 2009 or the March 2009 Veg Times magazine issue, which was really surprising, since Veg Times doesn't often hit a home run like this!

In other news, mini Delightful Banana Nut Muffins from Vegan A Go-Go! were a hit at a library bake-off I coordinated for the local teens. I made them with walnuts as called for, but I prefer hemp seed! The tiny seed goes well with this mini-size. Still, these were all gobbled up! I even used applesauce in lieu of the oil.

The last recipe I made this week doesn't have a photo, because I was always too busy eating it to plate it nicely! But, the Muhamara from an older Vegetarian Times mag (wow- again?) was incredible. This roasted red pepper and walnut spread (no beans or tahini here!) was almost perfect. But, compared to true recipes from local ethnic restaurants, it was missing a punch of heat. Next time, I'll add some cayenne or red pepper flakes or harissa. Still, very, very good!! Four stars, easy. I ate it in my usual lavash bread wrap w/ baby spinach or leafy green mix. Happy second week of spring everyone!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Drink to Your Health This Spring!

OK, so this pizza doesn't really fit the title of this post (although the glass of red wine I had with it would, right?) but I didn't take a picture of my first spring 2009 recipe because it just wasn't photogenic. The Drink Your Greens Smoothie, from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan (ED&BV), was certainly yummy enough to write about here. I was inspired by one of Dreena's latest blog posts to make it, especially as I had most of the day off and had time to enjoy a refreshing drink. I wanted to have something fresh and raw, to celebrate this beautiful new season! But the color (after adding raspberries to the spinach- I didn't have cantaloupe or kale) was not a pretty spring green, but really the color of ... mud! Spring-like enough I guess, but just not enticing enough to post here. Still, it earns four stars from me! **** I can't wait for real smoothie weather.

This pizza was not the first spring dish we made either, but it certainly would be good in any season! I had time today to make Isa's Pizza Crust, from Vegan with a Vengeance (Vw/aV) and also to roast some red peppers for the top. Hubby returned from playing paintball in time to slice the rest of the veggies and put the whole thing in the oven. I couldn't get it really nice and circular-shaped, but it looks rather rustic, doesn't it? The pizza itself was fabulous, if not a bit underdone (that was our fault). Of course, hubby ruined his half with mozzarella cheese ;) Alongside a springy salad of greens, baby spinach, black beans, corn, grape tomatoes and Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette from Vive Le Vegan (one of my favorite dressings!), it was a beautiful dish on this gorgeous day.

I made the dressing and salad last night to accompany fajita night with our monthly potluck group. I marinated some homemade seitan (recipe from Vw/aV) and some Morningstar Farms Chick'n Strips (vegan- yay!) in the Baja-Style Grilled Tempeh Tacos marinade from Veganomicon. Wow! What awesome flavor! Most of the marinade is Mexican beer, along with soy sauce, garlic, chili powder and several other ingredients that slip my mind at this moment (it's the red wine...). It made the seitan and Morningstar strips tender and juicy and perfect! I can't wait to try this entire recipe out for real! Four stars ****. Even hubby wasn't tempted by the meat fajitas also served that night, this was so good :)

And now, another episode of "Make This Now!"

These Ginger-Roasted Winter Veggies (or were they Root Veggies - whatever) from Vw/aV were simply phenomenal. The sauce took some rather old parsnips and carrots, an anemic-looking butternut squash, and an average sweet potato, and turned them into hunks of heaven!! They weren't too sweet or too spicy - just simply amazing. I had to use ground ginger, since I couldn't find my piece of fresh ginger in the maze that is my freezer (I found it today, gone bad in my veggie drawer - yuck). Fresh might have been even better. At any rate, you have to make this dish now. Quick -while it's still cool out and winter is not a (happily) distant memory. I served this atop a bed of baby spinach, alongside some Lemon-Herb Baked Tofu from Vive Le Vegan. MMmmmmmm....Four stars **** and happy days for me, because I was using up more things in my pantry.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Vegan Inspiration

Sorry for not posting on Sunday, but I had to work this Saturday!...Funnily enough, I have a ton to talk about...First, the food!

Power Hungry Granola from My Sweet Vegan, rescued me this week from a 2-year stint with muesli and oatmeal! I usually avoid granolas because I munch on them too much, but I really needed a break. And was this a good choice!!! This granola is filling but light, sweet but not too sweet, and very different! It incorporates oats, to be sure, but also puffed millet and TVP! Wow - what a protein and whole grain combo! I buy puffed millet at my local grocery store (Shopper's Food Warehouse) for a really good price and the TVP, too. I've had both hanging around for a while, so I didn't have to buy anything new for this recipe. Topped with some mixed dried fruit, nuts, and almond milk, this is my new favorite breakfast cereal! I haven't bought boxed breakfast cereal in years. Not only is it expensive, but it's often loaded with preservatives, sweeteners, and other things I can't even pronounce. Try this today! A great breakfast that will really break the fast! (I learned that in second grade.) Four stars for sure ****.

Of course, no breakfast is complete without O.J., low-acid for me...

But then, if you're feeling a little naughty (and I have been very, very good since my New Year's resolution to break my sugar habit!), you will want to try another recipe from the same cookbook, 5-Minute Coconut Fudge! Holy cow. You all know that I consider coconut a food of the goddesses, but with this chocolate base, it's a decadent treat to be reckoned with . I'm not a huge chocolate fan normally, and my husband isn't a huge coconut fan, but the coconut milk in the fudge is just a hint and the topping is perfect. We both gave this four stars **** and deemed it better than the Tahini Halvah I've made before! Very, very thick and very, very easy to make. Unfortunately, I made this for people who aren't big fans of coconut (how was I supposed to know that these people exist?) and they scraped the coconut off or declined a taste. More for me - woohoo! No, really, I only had one and a half pieces. I brought the leftovers to another meeting. I am still making good food choices! I really felt a little ill after that small serving, showing that my stomach is getting used to more whole foods and is less tolerant of this refined (though amazing!) stuff.

It made a good serving amount, too! Great for your next potluck...

For my hot meal last week, I decided to go with yet another taco recipe from the same article in the Vegetarian Times magazine May 2008 issue. Pictured here is a Roasted Tomatillo and Black Bean Taco. I have never worked with tomatillos before (another veggie first!) and I found that they were pretty tasty! The tomatillos are roasted whole along with chopped peppers and whole garlic cloves and onion. They are then slightly blended in the food processor and added to some black beans, corn, and an avocado-jalapeno salsa, which is then topped with cilantro and vegan sour cream. I made this because I was craving black beans, but then realized that I hadn't prepared the dried ones (and didn't have any canned) so I had to use black soybeans! The image looks right, but the taste wasn't the same. Still, not bad! It could have actually been more spicy. Two and a half stars, maybe three **1/2-***.

My last food for the week doesn't have a picture, because, like the last spread/dip I made, it wasn't very photogenic. But Eat, Drink and Be Vegan's Rawsome Nut Dip was indeed - awesome!! It contains four different nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios, although you can play with the combination) along with some red bell pepper, lemon juice and bunch of spices. I used dried herbs for the fresh ones and it worked out just fine. This was fresh, delicious and when I brought it to a monthly meeting, raved about!! A great break from bean hummus and sandwich spreads and still good with crackers and crudites. But wait till you hear my next story...

So, I have a monthly environmental group meeting and being part of Hospitality, my job is to meet and greet, and to organize/provide munchies. I take my job seriously - I am often the first face people see and a friendly, open first impression is important to make and keep members. Being that I pretty much have to attend every meeting, I often don't look at the agenda until the night of the meeting. This past week, the topic was CSA's (community supported agriculture) and I was psyched, because I had just joined one this year. However, the second presenter that night organic poultry farmer. Gulp. Well, I support my group and if they're organic, I figured that he/she probably has some environmental welfare in their minds....I'll be 90 % of you reading this have had nightmares involving animals at some time or another...whether it be about factory farming or hurt pets or something...well, I've had those too, but it doesn't compare to the real life nightmare I experienced at that meeting...

The nightmare began when it was mentioned to me that the farmer was bringing a chicken to be raffled off. I thought I would be ill, ...until I found out it was a frozen one. Then the farmer walked in ...with a cage of baby chicks - about 9 weeks old, peeping away. I thought I would be sick. But I kept my head and greeted him nicely, offering him a name tag, etc. I even joked with him, asking if I won the raffle, if I could get a live chicken (which I would donate to a farm sanctuary) - he immediately caught on and somehow already knew that there was "a vegan in the midst," saying, "Oh, you're the vegan..."

A bit later, when I offered him some refreshments from our table, he asked if they were vegan and when I responded that some were, he said, "Oh, I won't touch that - I'm strictly a meat and potatoes guy...I can see you and I won't get along!" He was abrupt and rude and rather red in the face at that point. I held my tongue and wondered if he indeed never ate corn or green beans or even cake, since the cake that was on the table was not vegan.

I wasn't sure if I could handle being there after that, and was wishing I had opted out of this meeting, but figured I'd just leave the room quietly if I couldn't handle it. But when the farmer stood up and began by chastising our group for improperly spelling his farm's name, and then began to explain that he wasn't organic by any means, and didn't really get with that whole vibe, I knew the nightmare was just beginning.

He went on to explain how he "moved the chickens' cages around on the grass" and how they "didn't eat organic feed, but it's all natural stuff and they'll eat anything anyway," and then onto discuss "broilers" and how they can't walk they are so fat and even how he's not certified by the health department, how he bought a gun because neighborhood pets kept eating this chickens...I quietly slipped out when the the word "butcher" came up....

I was told later that this gentleman found our group - that he wasn't sought out - and that he was representing the "small, local farmer." I completely appreciate these arguments, but it doesn't balance the rage, the fury, and the complete and utter pain I felt at the vision of this farmer, his baby chicks (which he later took out and cuddled!!), and their bloody future. If you don't get where I'm coming from, please visit the links on this blog, particularly,"Meet Your Meet." I cried that night, comforted by a good friend who followed me out of the room, but I also kept my composure, went back, and politely gave the farmer his hat as he was leaving. And here is my reasoning...

At one time, I owned a lucky rabbit's foot key chain but we had two pet rabbits and I cried when they died. At one time, I ate 3/4 pound hamburgers from Fuddruckers but I was depressed after my favorite cat died. At one time, I said, "I can never give up cheese - I'll never be vegan." At one time, I didn't make that connection between the pain my pets feel, the pain that animals that are raised to die feel, and the ability to find delicious, varied foods without sacrificing my beliefs. And I think of this poor farmer, who was visibly malnourished (in an American way, if you get my drift) who had never had amazing vegan desserts, never tasted a tempeh reuben or a grilled portabella, and whose mind was closed to the environmental crises of pollution, erosion, global warming, and water and food waste brought on by raising animals for human consumption. And I felt sorry for him. I prayed for him that night- that his eyes and heart might some day be opened in the way that mine and thousands of others have been. And I don't feel superior because of this - only hope.

National Meatout Day is this Friday, March 20th - also the first day of Spring. If you are not currently vegetarian, try a day off of animal products. Pet your dog and think of a cow, who enjoys the same thing. Watch a cardinal at your bird feeder or building a nest, and think of a chicken, who would love to scratch at the ground and wrap her wings around her babies. Watch your cat trying to get away the next time it's getting a shot at the vets, and think of a pig (more intelligent, even) scrambling to avoid death at a slaughterhouse. Eat a veggie meal and savor the flavors and nutrients that it brings to your body. Visit Vegan Outreach and open your mind to new possibilities. If you are already eating veg, order some leaflets from and walk around a farmer's market, spreading the word. The word of love. You have to do this all with love, because that is the root of this lifestyle. It isn't a diet, it isn't a fad, it's a way of being. Fortunately, with the nightmares come inspiration. I'm leafleting for National Meatout Day with a couple vegan friends. That farmer inspired me to be the best, most compassionate person I can be - and not just through my food choices. Peace.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Winter!

As you know by my last post, we got pounded (pounded for VA, that is) with about 6 inches of snow on Monday. By Friday, however, it was in the 60s and yesterday it reached 70-something! So, with winter having its last hurrah, we're trying out some new, hearty, winter-style recipes before spring arrives (only 2 weeks - hurray!).

OK, so this first dish, Jamaican Tempeh Tacos, from Vegetarian Times magazine (May, 2008) isn't very wintery with its pineapple, but the curry flavor and the sauteed greens (we opted for sauteed kale instead of fresh mustard greens) helped winter-ize it. I shouldn't say, "we," of course, as my husband refused to even taste this dish. Pineapple in a hot dish (actually added the pineapple - the recipe didn't call for it but I saw it in the magazine photo!) isn't his thing. More for me! - is what I always say ;) This was delicious and easy. Best of all, I was finally able to score some tempeh at our local Ukrop's grocery store! I haven't had tempeh in months....If you are new to vegetarianism or veganism, tempeh is a great food to try. It has a nice, firm texture and is very filling! Just make sure to simmer it for 10 minutes first, to remove the bitterness. It also opens up the "pores" in the tempeh and allows for greater flavor absorption (in my experience, anyway). Three and a half stars for this recipe. ***1/2 (out of four possible).

Here's the real winter dish: Beet, Barley and Black Soybean Soup, from Vegan with a Vengeance. Not my first pick from this cookbook, but I certainly wish I had made it sooner! I'm not a beet fan, having grown up on canned beets, microwaved with no flavor enhancers. But fresh beets simmered with other spices (the fresh dill and pumpernickel croutons are a must!) made this really tasty. We added some salt to the recipe and more black pepper, but this was a nice, hearty winter soup. Three stars *** (out of four).

And that's it for this week! I was busy with the grand re-opening of our library branch, so I was lucky to be able to make much at all! I did make the Walnut Chickpea Hummus, from Vegan A Go-Go!, but the gray color was not very photogenic. A good, three star *** rating, however, and wonderful flavor - it was like an Italian hummus, with the basil and walnuts. Very good!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Living High on Gluten-Free Foods!

Check...out...this...cake! Are you drooling yet? I wish I could say I made this masterpiece, but alas, I did not. Our UU Fellowship recently held it's Gourmet Gala, a pledging/fundraising event, and boy, did I luck out! I was at a vegan/gluten-free table (not that I didn't have to see broiled chickens, trussed up and all, paraded by my face on their way to other tables) and my table's theme was Mediterranean (it was potluck). This vegan, gluten-free chocolate cake was the envy of those that passed by our table, however! And yes, it was as good to taste as it was to look at (despite my no-sugar resolution, I did allow myself one tiny nibble so that I could blog about it here - you're welcome!).

However, I did make this: Pistachio-Chocolate Halvah, a traditional Turkish dessert featuring lots of tahini. This recipe was from Vegan World Fusion, a fantastic cookbook. The halvah was sooo easy to make, too! Just melt the chocolate (in the microwave), and mix with the tahini, some agave nectar, cinnamon, cardamom, and vanilla, (oh, and the chopped pistachios) and chill! It was thick and rich and had just a hint of tahini flavor (which not everyone could tell). Four stars! ****Oh, and yes, I did have a nibble of this while cutting it up - this resolution stuff is hard!
Here is our beautiful table. Homemade hummus and Mary's Gone Crackers got us started off.

This Greek Salad, made by our hosts, was amazing.

Of course, I got tapped to bring dessert. Luckily, I had just gotten the Mediterranean Vegan cookbook with some gift card money, and this Greek Currant Cake ("before" picture) was perfect! It includes an entire box of currants, 3/4 cup of olive oil, and 2 tsp of brandy - woohoo! I brought a trial version to my workplace and got rave reviews. However, when I used gluten-free flour (Bob's Red Mill) later that week for the real event, it had a hard time cooking. The first one was underdone, the second was overdone. Oh well, - it was certainly edible. I'll give it ***1/2 stars as an average! Moist, with a crunchy crust and studded throughout with tiny, yummy currants.
Here is the "after" shot, although I later cut it into triangular wedges and sifted confectioner's sugar on top.

The next night was my husband's and my weekly meal together (we typically cook separately throughout the week - and not just because he's an omni, but because we have such varied food preferences!) This Three Bean Chili from Vegan Planet, was almost perfect, but I had to add some sauteed kale and some cooked barley to the finished product, to up my whole-grain and green veggie count for the day. I think this made the chili even better! Otherwise, it was just a mess o' beans. Three stars *** before, Three and a half, after ;)
The chili was so easy to put together, I had time to whip up this Almond Apricot Loaf from Vive Le Vegan! while the chili simmered. I've been meaning to make this for a long time, and as usual, I wish I had made it sooner! The toasted almonds within and on top made this a real winner. Three and a half ***1/2 stars!

Backing up a the week trudged on, I found a way to use up this little butternut squash I had kicking around. Tanya's Curried Squash Soup from Vegan A Go-Go! by Sarah Kramer, used so many veggies! Leek, sweet potato, regular potato (I found I could leave the skin on both - yay!), onion, garlic, cauliflower, butternut squash...the list went on and on! Unfortunately, it wasn't as good as I thought it would be. It wasn't spicy or salty enough. I blended it halfway, so there were some nice chunks among the smoothness, but it still could have used a little something. I think cilantro or parsley would have helped as well. Two stars **.

But then, after all my hoping and dreaming about spring, what happens but we get hit by a snowstorm! We haven't had snow since January (and it was hardly anything even then) and have had the driest February on record, but last night we got over half a foot! That's a lot for Virginia, although I know my 82 year-old grandmother has been shoveling record snows back in New England. We are such wusses now...

Anyhow, it was a good morning to make something hot and different...

Hot quinoa! I bought quinoa flakes a while back and was excited to try them. However, they were so blah...They had a funny odor to them, and even with dried fruit and black strap molasses (both have iron!), I didn't care for them. I think it was too watery, so next time I could probably make it with less H2O, but frankly, I'd rather save them for baking with. At any rate, lots of gluten-free foods this week are certainly good for my digestion :)