Sunday, May 31, 2009


Kohlrabi! I had heard of this mysterious veggie, but had only seen it in person just this past week, when it showed up in my CSA weekly bag o' produce. I quickly Googled it for some basic info and recipes. Turns out, it's not that foreign and pretty tasty! Yes, it tastes like a sweet broccoli stem, minus the rubbery outer part. Yes, it is crunchy and amazingly fresh like jicama and good apples.

Mine were a gorgeous pale green. I haven't figured out what to do with the green tops yet...probably saute them or something later this week if they last that long. We also got a bag of kale amongst other produce, which I normally chow down on, but after a long winter of kale, I was like, "ugh!"

So, here are the two kohlrabi heads (they aren't roots) "peeled" with my knife and awaiting further instructions...

Turns out, they were destined to be julienned and made into this delicious Kohlrabi Salad! If we get this veggie again, I would definitely make a repeat of this dish! It was really quick and easy, even the toasting and grinding of the fennel seeds for the dressing. The flavor was beautifully fresh and the veggies perfectly crisp. Would be great alongside a veggie patty or something! Three and a half stars ***1/2, only because I think it could have used some red pepper strips or something else besides just the carrot and kohlrabi. We'll probably get more of these babies in the coming weeks, so here is the next recipe I think I'll be making....veganized, of course!
Speaking of fresh, I've been craving raw, fresh foods ever since the warmer weather hit this past month, and even before I made last week's amazing raw "cookies" (Come Bite the Apple Cookies), I was chowing down on this Cauliflower Couscous, also from Rawvolution. I can't emphasize how easy this was... or how delicious!! You just put the cauliflower florets into the food processor and ...voila! looks just like couscous! Add tons of fresh herbs (mint, cilantro and parsley) plus some kalamata olives, olive oil, lemon juice and probably salt and pepper and you have a raw, vegan, gluten-free, nutrient-rich dish! Not fat free, but good fats are our friends :) Four stars for this recipe, even after eating it all week long! (It makes a lot).

So, despite being fired up about raw cooking (I have some veggie cakes in the dehydrator at this very moment, for the week to come) and despite planning on eating as much raw as possible this summer, I still have to find a way to eat the produce from the CSA, including tough kale and shiitake mushrooms. I know enough about eating mushrooms that they usually need to be cooked. So, enter amazing dish from Vegetarian Times. I've had these Shiitake Fritters with Enoki Mushroom sauce in mind since I got the September 2007 issue they were featured in. But, not being one to cook a ton with mushrooms (although I love them!) it has taken almost two years to get to this recipe! Boy, I wish I had gotten to it earlier! Despite not having enoki mushrooms (the recipe said I could substitute others) and despite leaving out the shredded carrots, salt and pepper (just plum forgot), and despite adding twice as much water to the side dish of rice after I decided to half the rice amount because I knew we would never eat that much all turned out just fine! I scooped the extra water out of the rice, added the shredded carrot to the sauteed kale and with that amazing mushroom sauce, everything tasted great! The fritters were a little crumbly (I used flax instead of the egg- maybe next time I'll use two flax "eggs") but not that bad. Three and a half stars for this recipe! ***1/2

Meanwhile, my zucchini plants keep a-growin' along with the six or seven other herbs that I planted in my garden (nothing that great to show you yet). Can't wait for baked, stuffed squash blossoms! (I'll have to see if I can dehydrate those, too.)

Happy almost-June, everyone!
P.S. - Spellchecker didn't mind kohlrabi either, but it still has a darn time with: jicama, veganized, shiitake, enoki, and kalamata! Guess our spell-checker creator is an omni!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Spring Goodies!

It's a miracle, the life that grows out of the soil with some simple seeds...I was surprised and overwhelmed with awe to catch this image one recent first zucchini sprouts of the season poking their way out of the soil... there was literally a hole in the earth! Way cool...

Then, literally (and barely) two mornings later, they were up and out, reaching for the sky....

Of course, it's a good thing that that I'm not a grower/farmer for the local CSA that I just joined this year, because I'd be way behind! :) Here is the load from the first pick-up of the year: a huge bag of mixed greens, a large bag of spinach, radishes, peas, shiitake mushrooms, and a huge head of bok choy. So, here's what we made with last week's "crop"....

To use up the shiitakes, and fill my craving for tofu, here are Shiitake-Stuffed Tofu Steaks with Hoisin Glaze from The Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook, by Robin Robertson. I pressed the tofu while I prepared a salad, then sauteed the stuffing of mushrooms, red onion (I forgot to get scallions), garlic and ginger. Then, I stuffed my first tofu steaks! Perfect :)

Here are the tofu pieces, crisped in sesame oil and hoisin sauce. The extra "stuffing" was great on the side, along with some millet. Can you see the beautiful salad on the side? I made use of the CSA radishes, greens, and peas, topping them with a Sesame-Lemon Vinaigrette from The Everyday Vegan. I call this my "Stir-Fry Salad!" It was a great compliment to the flavors in the tofu, as the dressing also had hoisin in it.

Here's a closeup of that bad boy...It's mouth seems to be saying, "eat me!" OK, that's a little too graphic for us vegans....sorry....Anyway, hubby was impressed with the entire presentation...said it was like a gourmet chef in the kitchen! :) Four stars for this one! ****

If you've never had polenta before, try it in the pre-cooked tube! I was surprised that four out of five people in the grocery store had never heard of it (I had to ask five people to find it), and only one knew what it looked like but thought it was some kind of cheese! We're in the south - home of cornmeal, right?? Anyway, the tube is not refrigerated and you just peel away the wrapping (not very enviro-friendly, I know!) and here is what it looks like...

I bought the polenta to use in a dish that was going to use up the bok choy and spinach from our CSA pickup. Here is my mis en place - this was so easy to make! You can see chopped sun-dried tomatoes, chopped seitan (homemade, right from the freezer!), quartered polenta slices, and a big bowl of greens, just waiting for that topping of tamari and balsamic vinegar...

And here is the finished product, Seitan-Polenta Skillet with Greens, from Vegan Express. My husband (I'm going with "Mr. P.L.V" for peace, love and veganism, from now on! - tired of "husband this" and "hubby that") said that this was his favorite dish all week. He grew up in PA, so polenta was a common and favorite food of his... Four stars from him, three and a half from me. ***1/2.

I had to bring something to the CSA picnic that they always have on the first pickup night, and this Toasted Millet Salad with Curried Dressing from The Candle Cafe Cookbook was just so easy and yum! What an amazing dressing! As usual, I had to halve the dressing amount. But I forgot to halve the grain amount and ended up with enough millet to eat all week! Oh, and I had some issues with cooking the millet. Apparently, there are two ways to cook it - 1) mushy and creamy-like, or 2) fluffy and grainy-like. I wanted the grainy but got the creamy. But you know what? People at the picnic devoured it anyhow! There was hardly any left out of the huge bowl... I'd say a solid three stars ***.

With the long Memorial Day weekend, I spent one day in the garden, one day cleaning and one day in the kitchen! I got the dehydrator going and made this easy and AMAZING Come Bite the Apple Cookies from Rawvolution, my newest cookbook (well, one of them!). After a recent raw food presentation at our Vegetarian Group, I was geared up for some high-nutrient, low-heat food! Boy, these were soooo good. Just apples, raisins, ground almonds, cinnamon and agave nectar! Oh, and 24 hours in the dehydrator....not something to make the night before your child's school bake sale! (But how cool would it be to have raw cookies at a bake sale??)
After I got the raw cookies "cooking," I did fire up the oven to bake my "muffin trilogy:" Blueberry-Lemon Muffins from The Joy of Vegan Baking, Carrot-Raisin Muffins from Vegan with a Vengeance, and Apple-Pie Muffins, also from Vw/aV. I subbed some bananas for the sugar in the blueberry ones...bad choice- they just weren't sweet enough, but a great rise, compared to the other two that were a little flat. But, great taste in all three! Three solid stars for each one *** (although the carrot-raisin one was my fav, same as Isa!).

And, last week's menu....Layered Vegetable Lasagna, from Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes. This was great looking and tasting but...

Didn't quite stick together on the plate....disappointing. Good with extra sauce! Three stars ***, just about...

And, with a craving for something toothy, here are Chickpea Cutlets, made with the addition of wheat gluten, which gave them their chewy, dare I say "meaty" (which I never really go for!) consistency! Made these for Mr. PLV really...

On top of a bed of spinach fettucine with steamed asparagus! Three and a half stars....Reminded me of the horrible childhood years that I loved veal parmesan, the hell did it take me so long to connect that with this?.....

But, to end on a happy note, here is one last incredible meal (OK, so it was only a three star, but the salsa made it a four!!!) and a great vegan athlete story....
This Almond-Crusted Tempeh with Strawberry-Mango Salsa was also from Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes, surprisingly enough. I just couldn't get enough of the sweet and spicy salsa, but Mr. PLV hates fruit with his meal and had to settle for a white balsamic vinaigrette dressing that just didn't do it justice. All served over a bed of millet and yes...CSA mixed greens! The story is as follows...I ran in my first half-marathon last weekend! I felt strong and prepared and whizzed by those pokey meat-eaters on the hills! Despite previous knee-injuries acting up, I placed 130 out of nearly 2500 women, 23rd in my age group of nearly 400! Yeah, baby! Go Vegan! :)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

This and That

Wow! I can't believe it's been two weeks since my last post! I had to work last Saturday, and I spent Sunday in the garden and the week was so hectic...well, you all know how that goes. I actually had a draft with all the pics - it just never got any words :) So, here are two weeks worth of drool-worthy food!

Actually, it was pretty simple fair these past couple of weeks, what with being so busy and all. We start with steamed asparagus, on a bed of greens with a light "honey" mustard vinaigrette (can't really see it here). I over-did the asparagus the first time - 3 minutes is all it really needs! I eat as much asparagus as I can this time of year because it's gone so quickly! I hate to say it, but BJ's wholesale club has had the best deals on asparagus - the skinny stuff, too! Our first CSA pickup starts this week, so hopefully I'll be local and organic the rest of the year!

One of my favorite dishes these past few days has been these Raw Soft Tacos with fresh salsa, from Rawvolution, my newest cookbook acquisition. I can't tell you how amazing these things taste. You use ground walnuts in place of the meat and then with the fresh, homemade salsa, there is nothing quite like it! You don't even care that it's not piping hot (especially during hot summer days). The only thing not raw was the whole wheat tortilla, which I used in place of the chard leaf - I was trying to use them up before they went bad. The only change I would make (and after talking to other raw chefs they have the same comment) is to use less nama shoyu, or soy sauce. I used Bragg's Liquid Aminos, which also appears to be raw, because I didn't have the raw shoyu, and either way, it was waaay too salty :P You can halve the shoyu if you make this. I guess it would need some additional water, then, though. Four stars for this bad boy! **** And the best part? No cooking time means dinner is on the table in record time!

Husband and I explored a new Indian recipe from Vegan Fusion World Cuisine - Sat Cit Ananda's Chana Masala with Padma Baba's Spelt Chapatti. We just love chana masala, but thought this one could have used much more spice! There is no garam masala in this - that's what I'll add next time. But the coconut milk made it nice and creamy - even hubby liked it! I sprinkled it with black sesame seeds, too. Three stars *** Unfortunately, the chapatti didn't fare as well. It burned very quickly and turned out pretty tough and hard. After speaking with an Indian friend (experienced with these foods), she said that that recipe didn't sound like chapatti. She recommended adding more fat (olive oil was in this recipe, but she recommends yogurt - I wonder if soy or coconut yogurt would make the grade?) to make it more pliable. She also promised to make us some homemade chapatti herself! Yay! Two, maybe one star for this poor thing *. Barely edible.

As you can see, we also added cauliflower to up the nutritional standing of the masala. Yummy!

These pics are from last year's Indian Wraps, from The Candle Cafe Cookbook. I was so excited this year, to use up some leftover broiled eggplant (from a previous dish) and a bit of tofu I had kicking around, too! I just broiled the tofu, too, as it was raining too hard to grill. At any rate, the grilled version of last year was much preferred except....

This time around, I didn't just halve the marinade/dressing recipe, I cut it into thirds at least! This made it way less greasy and much more yummy. This chickpea salad that went into the wrap used up some olives and chickpeas I also had kickin' around.

As I did last year, I served this year's wrap with leftover brown rice, instead of couscous. Better nutritional value, and just as good!

Ummmm..... Still, only three stars *** because grilled is better!!

Speaking of leftovers, my husband has this habit of not using up all the marinara sauce in a jar (we have a great homemade recipe, but he doesn't have time). So, I used up the rest of a jar last week with some new rice penne pasta. With a sprinkle of Parma, it was darn good!

Last weekend's dinner was a delectable Tofu Stir-Fry, adapted from the Vegan Fusion World Cuisine book, with shiitake mushrooms and snow peas and an orange bell pepper. We added asparagus, of course! And, the omnipresent black sesame seeds :) The tofu turned out great and the sauce was perfect! Three and a half stars ***1/2. I'm kind of burned out on stir-fries, not that we have them that often...

Using up some more veggies, these roasted grape tomatoes were previously from a scene of, "Veggies Gone Wild." I bought this ginormous case of them from BJ's when my parents were here to stay (they were from the US, while the smaller case was from Mexico!) and I just couldn't get through them all. They were starting to get wrinkled and shriveled. So, into the oven they went, halved and sprinkled with olive oil, salt and pepper. The results? Amazing! Saved the day and the veggies...

Then came my second favorite meal of this post: Roasted Tomato-Pesto Pasta! This was my own homemade concoction and sooo simple. Just tossed a cube of frozen pesto into the hot bowl of hot noodles, mixed until it spread all around, and then tossed in the roasted tomatoes from the above photo. Results? Four stars **** and the easiest meal in the past two weeks! Wish I had thought of it this past winter...Well, off I go to bake some muffins, oat bars and other snacks for work, along with some seitan that I'm also craving. I'll need the energy after my first 1/2 marathon tomorrow morning!! :) Go vegan athletes!!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Ultimate Vegan Comfort Food!

Over a year ago, I bought a Twinkies pan, after reading about making vegan corn dogs on the Vegan Lunch Box blog. But the corn dogs didn't materialize, as I'm not a big eater of processed food (even homemade processed food), and the pan sat there on the tippety top of my cupboard shelves.

Then, last week, it was my husband's birthday and guess what he wanted? Twinkies :) After last year's success with vegan Fauxtess Cupcakes (like the Hostess kind -see the link) from Vw/aV, which, I cannot believe I didn't blog about ack!, I was more than happy to oblige. Luckily, they were as easy as pie (again, pie is not easy, but I'll stick with the cliche, I guess). Just a basic vanilla cupcake batter in the Twinkies pan and then pipe the frosting (homemade of course) into the cakes in the three places through the bottom! And the results? Four stars**** maybe more! They were moist and sweet and soooo good. I made them for our monthly Veg Group meeting, too, and they were scarfed up. The only tweak I had to make was because I didn't have the barley malt powder for the "marshmallow flavor" in the frosting. The first time, I used a bit of barley malt syrup but it turned the white frosting pale brown, so I left it out the second time.

I bought the pan from Bed Bath and Beyond but they no longer carry it. Try this link here. Next up - vegan corn dogs!

I also tried a spicy peanut noodle dish from Veg News magazine this week for lunch. It was supposed to be served cold or room temp, so that was perfect for my lunches on the go. The first day, it was awesome (and nicely spicy!) but after a couple of days, it was just a little too stuck together for me. Didn't look anything like the picture in the magazine, either...I also prefer red bell peppers, but only had a green. And, I added cubed cold tofu as well. At least my mother, who was in town for the week, enjoyed it! I give it two and a half stars ** 1/2.
These Berry Muffins from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan, were pretty easy to make of course, and they were also a great way to use up some chickpea flour (also known as besan and gram flour). They were very hearty tasting (also had oat flour in them) and I liked the blueberries, although nothing is better than fresh blueberries! Can't wait! Three strong stars for these bad boys ***.

As I was still working while my parents were visiting, one night my mum cooked up dinner for us! Alongside some broiled asparagus, we had Veganomicon's Snobby Joe's! Wow and yum! Even with less chili powder (my dad can't do spices) they were still awesome. Loved having lentils for a change! (Especially brown ones because I usually do red.) A pickle on the side makes everything nice (Vlassic doesn't use high fructose crap, either). Three and a half stars ***1/2!

The rest of the week we enjoyed Eggplant Pizza, seitan and pepper fajitas, and, last but certainly not least, this Ziti Bake from Veg News magazine. Wow and holy cow! So creamy and saucy and yummy and comforting! Would have been a great dish for the winter.... Used macadamia nuts and cashews to create a ricotta and a cream sauce, along with tomato sauce (also homemade, but could have been jarred or canned) and lots of fresh parsley. Four stars **** easily! So, that ends the week of vegan comfort food: muffins, Sloppy Joe's, Twinkies, and baked pasta. I'll try to make some healthier fare next week....but what am I saying?? These WERE healthy! :) That's the great thing about being vegan. Even your junk food and comfort food is healthier. (Even the Twinkies had no cholesterol, animal fat, or trans/hydrogenated fats!). Before I leave, I haven't forgotten about Earth Day! I did the same booth at our local Earth Day festival as last year, though this time with two other Veg Group members to keep me company, and we talked to at least 100 people! Yeah! Click here to read the top 10 reasons a vegan diet is better for the planet!