Friday, May 30, 2008

Low Fat Pumpkin Muffins

These are modified from Vegan With a Vengeance. I made them the original way once and *loved* them. I can't say these are just as good, but they are still very very good, and I feel less guilty eating them. The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of oil, I used just 1 tbsp and added 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp unsweetened applesauce. I also added a dash of baking soda, and made all the spice measurements heaping.
They taste almost the same, but the texture is a lot different - stickier and denser. They still have a ton of sugar - over a cup - but I didn't want to play around with too many variables at once. I'm thinking about trying agave with these, any suggestions?

I was tagged by the awesome Bianca to name five things about myself, so here goes:

1. I used to be a crazy picky eater. The list of things I would eat was under 20 items, and most of them were white. I didn't branch out until after college, and now there's only a few things I won't eat (not counting all the non-vegan foods, of course).

2. A few months ago I got very sick after traveling to Costa Rica. Turns out it was a parasite - eww!

3. I have a great job with an amazing perk - paid gym time. We can work out for 3 hours a week, on the clock, in the on-site gym.

4. My shower curtain has rubber duckies on it. I have a rather juvenile sense of decor, or so I've been told.

5. I don't like cooking with cast iron. I know it's supposed to be better, but I've always cooked with non-stick and I find anything else traumatic.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Kibbeh and Cherry Tofu

I'm back! I've been cooking a lot, but haven't had time to post. Hopefully I'll get through the backlog soon.

Tonight's dinner was Kibbeh from the Happy Herbivore's upcoming cookbook. Thanks for letting me be on your test squad, Lindsay!
As a side dish/dessert, some cherry tofu (easy fake soy yogurt). Fresh cherries blended with silken tofu, plus a touch of agave and vanilla extract. Next time I'll add a little cherry juice to make it more sour. It's hot and muggy here now, and cherries seem like the perfect thing to eat.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Black Bean and Corn Enchiladas

I was trying to make something very very easy with minimal dishes. That didn't happen, but it was still pretty easy, and very yummy. How I managed to use every bowl and pot in the house remains a mystery.
The very very easy went out the window when I couldn't find a vegan canned/jarred enchilada sauce. The homemade one was probably better, anyway. Recipe from Cooking Light, slightly
altered -

Enchilada Sauce

1/2 cup diced red onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained

Spray a medium pan with non-stick spray. Cook onion and garlic over medium heat for 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in remaining ingredients, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.

The rest of it definitely qualifies as very very easy.

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 package frozen corn
8 tortillas (I used sprouted whole wheat with lime - awesome!)

Preheat oven to 350. Spread about a cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. For each enchilada, put the tortilla in a non-stick frying pan for about 10 seconds to soften it up. Then take a spoonful of corn and a spoonful of beans in the middle and roll it up; place in pan with the folded side down. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top. Bake for about 40 minutes, covered.

My tortillas were a little small, so I filled the rest of the pan with the remaining beans and corn. I put half a block of shredded Follow Your Heart cheddar on top, but I'm leaving it out of the recipe because it didn't add anything. I guess it made them look more enchilada-like, but I didn't feel like it had any flavor. Plus the enchiladas don't need it - even though they're really simple and un-seasoned, they tastes great as-is. Especially when topped with Toffuti Sour Supreme. Mmmm.

For a side dish, sauteed onion, peppers and squash with a little garlic and a healthy dose of cayenne.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Banana Smoothie

Got up and went for a run this morning, and then tried to make something healthy that tastes like dessert. I think it turned out pretty well.

1 cup chocolate hemp milk
1/2 package lite silken tofu
1 frozen banana, cut into chunks
2 or 3 tablespoons natural peanut butter (I used the kind you grind yourself at the store, with no oil)
1 tray ice cubes

Put everything in a blender and blend till smooth. Makes two servings (about a cup each).

It's not extremely chocolaty, but it is tasty and refreshing. No picture cause it just looks like pale chocolate milk. :)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Restaurant Review - Joe's Noodle House

After the first time I ate at Joe's Noodle House, I haven't wanted to get Chinese food anywhere else. This is a home-style Chinese restaurant, meaning most of the menu isn't Americanized. They have a huge vegetarian menu, most of which is vegan (or can be made vegan upon request). Plus it's dirt cheap. What's not to love?

Tonight we got sauteed bean sprouts and a Szechuan style hot pot with tofu. The bean sprouts were on the specials board (they have about 6 or 7 seasonal vegetable specials). It was a nice simple dish, just bean sprouts and some scallions in a mild garlic sauce. Very light and refreshing. It made a great side dish for the hot pot, which is HOT. The menu describes it as numbing, and it doesn't lie. The first time we ordered it the waitress tried to talk us out of it. It's the best kind of spicy - flavorful, not (just) painful. I have no idea what is in the sauce, but it has multiple layers of flavors and spice, and is completely unlike anything I've had elsewhere. The big pieces of soft tofu soak it up wonderfully. It's a little light on the vegetables - just a carrot and piece of cabbage here and there - but that's a minor quibble (and what side dishes are for).
I've tried several other dishes here and have never been disappointed, but the hot pot is the best so far. Other stand-outs are the veggie moo shu and the Hunan style tofu.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Curried Chickpea Salad Sandwich

Since the cobbler came out so well, I was feeling adventurous and put this salad together. It's yet another spin on a very old theme, but I like the added dimension the curry and raisins bring to it.
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 stalks celery, minced
1/2 of a vidalia onion, minced
3 small radishes, minced (grated carrot would be good, too)
handful of raisins
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp curry powder (more or less to taste)
juice of half a lemon
  1. Mash the chickpeas with a tablespoon or two of Vegenaise in a medium bowl with a potato masher or fork. Mash until creamy, but not a paste (leave some big pieces of chickpea).
  2. Stir in the minced onion, celery, radish and raisins
  3. Stir in the few pinches of salt and pepper to taste
  4. Stir in the curry powder
  5. Stir in the lemon juice (thanks to Omnivorous Boyfriend for suggesting this)
To make the sandwiches, put some salad between lightly toasted whole wheat bread and top with sliced tomatoes and lettuce. Makes enough for four or five sandwiches. Quick and easy lunches for the week!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler

Made this one up, and it came out great! Very exciting. Inspired by the strawberry-rhubarb-peach pie in VWaV, and the arrival of spring produce at the farmer's market.
2 cups strawberries, finely chopped
3 stalks rhubarb, finely chopped
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp arrowroot
1/4 tsp vanilla


1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 + 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
2 tbsp turbinado sugar
1/4 cup very cold earth balance, sliced thin
1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 425
  2. Put the fruit and walnuts in a medium bowl and toss with the sugar and spices
  3. Stir in the arrowroot, then stir in the vanilla
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and spices
  5. Stir in the sugar and oats
  6. Cut in the earth balance with two knives or a pastry blender, until crumbly
  7. Gently stir in the vanilla
  8. Pour fruit mixture into greased glass baking dish and sprinkle on topping
  9. Bake for 30 minutes, until fruit is bubbling and topping is browned
I intended to make this in a 9" square dish, but when I went to get it from the cabinet I remembered it's still at my office with whatever is left of the brownies from last week. Clearly I am baking too much lately. I made it in a loaf pan instead, which worked just fine, but the ratio of fruit to topping would be even better in a shallower dish. We ate this hot with Soy Dream french vanilla, which may be my new favorite soy cream. It has a creamier texture than Purely Decadent and is less sugary than Temptation.
I've never cooked with rhubarb before, I thought it would require much more effort than it actually does. I love the tart-ness it gives the cobbler. Amazing how it looks so much like celery, and yet tastes so different...

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Restaurant Review - Ize's Deli and Bagelry

Ize's has really, really, really good bagels. Perfectly chewy and flavorful. I can't say they're very vegan friendly, since your options here are a plain bagel, bagel with jelly, or one sandwich. But it is a darn good sandwich, and it's called The Vegan. So that's pretty cool.

The Vegan is nothing particularly creative, but it is very well executed. Hummus and veggies (lettuce, tomato and onion) on a bagel of your choice. I usually get the pumpernickel, but when I went on Saturday they were out and I tried the salt bagel. I get now why people are obsessed with salt bagels - it brought the sandwich to an entirely new level. So so good.

As much as I enjoy Ize's, I still have not entirely forgiven them for an incident a few months ago. I ordered The Vegan, as usual. Upon first bite it seemed extremely salty. Upon the second bite it had a bizarre, fleshy texture. They had put smoked salmon on it. On a sandwich called *The Vegan.* Arrgh! When I took it back to the counter to complain, they seemed confused as to why I wouldn't want a dead fish on my sandwich, but they did make me a new one.


I've tried a bunch of different pancake recipes, and this one is my favorite so far. The carbonated water, as advertised, makes them nice and light and fluffy. I've tried the banana walnut pancakes from Vegan With a Vengeance and the easy pancakes on VegWeb, and wasn't very impressed with either. They were both fine, but seemed to be missing something compared with non-vegan pancakes. These were the best yet. Next time I'll try a version that adds something as an egg replacer instead of just omitting the egg, as all three of these recipes do.

I used 1 cup of all purpose flour and 1/3 cup of whole wheat flour. I would have done half and half with whole wheat pastry, but this was what was around. Served with fresh blackberries (again, cause that's what we had - great deal at costco) and maple syrup. If I'd thought about it I would have added a little cinnamon and some pecans.

Risotto and Roasted Carrots

Friday night I made risotto from another recipe. I made this once before for my grandfather, following the basic recipe and adding a whole bunch of cremini mushrooms. It was rich and yummy and everyone loved it. This time I skipped the mushrooms and followed Anna's suggestion to add a can of pureed pumpkin and a 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts. It's a toss up as to which is better, but they're both amazing. Pretty quick and easy to make too. With oil and mushrooms it has a very savory and rich flavor; the pumpkin makes it much creamier and almost adds a cheesy taste.

To go with it I roasted a bunch of carrots with olive oil and an insane amount of minced ginger. Not the most balanced meal, as it's lacking a significant source of protein, but quite tasty and filling. It makes a *ton* of food, too - my boyfriend generally eats about 3 servings of any given dish at a time, we had some leftovers tonight and there's still a big portion left, which by my math makes it more than 8 servings.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Situational Limitations

My apartment is tiny. Seriously, majorly, not even kidding tiny. My landlord says it's 300 square feet, but I think he's measuring generously. Call me crazy, but I kind of love it. When it's just me, it's wonderfully cozy. Nothing is too far from anything and every bit of space is used. When my boyfriend or someone else is here, or god forbid a few friends at once, it's less pleasant.

Which brings me to the kitchen. This picture shows what I'm working with. That's it. About 1 foot of 'counter' space, a mini-stove and fridge. It's beyond minimal, but I'm used to it and it makes me feel very accomplished to wrest a three-course dinner from its tiny confines. I use the floor a lot for extra work space, but don't tell my mom.
The oven cracks me up. It's quite new, installed when I moved in last June, and presumably ordered from Slum Landlords 'R Us. There are no temperature settings on the oven dial. Observe.

The manual says, and I quote, "Imagine that the control has three sections: Low, Bake, and Broil." Uhh, imagine that it had some *numbers* printed on it! Being an engineer, I busted out the protractor and charted out where basics like 350 and 425 should be, based on the temperature range given in the manual. Those black marks on the dial are my work. After a few weeks of everything either burning or taking five hours to cook, I got an oven thermometer and discovered that I should also be imagining the dial working in reverse. Turning the dial towards high lowers the temperature, turning toward low raises it. D'oh.

It must be impossible to make a bad gas range, though, cause that part works great. I hope to never again suffer the indignities of an electric range, but one day I'd like to have a full size stove I can get two big pans on at the same time.

Brownies (mmmmmm, chocolate)

This recipe (like so many things I make) comes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz, found on the ppk website.

Absolutely fantastic. As the recipe says, they're somewhere between cake-y and fudgy, definitely more cake-like than the brownies of my youth (which came from a box). They're like really really really rich chocolate cake squares. I think they'd be even better with a little chocolate icing on top.

While not as simple as your basic brownie, I had no trouble making these, and since I've already admitted to butchering baked tofu (repeatedly) that's saying something. I used light firm tofu instead of the extra firm called for, cause I had 3 boxes of it sitting around. I also added the rest of the bag of chocolate chips into the batter at the end. Holy mega chocolate bliss, batman! I brought these to work, and no one guessed they were vegan.

I used Trader Joe's chocolate chips. They're not specifically marketed as vegan, but they are, and WOW. I like these even better than Tropical Source and Ghiradelli, both of which cost way more. They are seriously rich and chocolate-y.

Curried Tofu and Mashed Potatoes

I love Veganomicon. I really do. But I don't love the curried tofu recipe.

I should start out by admitting my bizarre failing with baked tofu. I don't know why, but I seem to screw it up every time. It should be very simple, but I either forget to slice the tofu before marinating it or put the pieces in a bowl they won't fit into or forget to flip it or on and on and on. It always ends up seeming like a lot more work than it should be. One day I'll get the hang of it.

I've tried this recipe twice, since the first time I messed it up in multiple ways. Most egregiously I used 1/4 tbsp of curry powder instead of a 1/4 cup, and I used some dried cumin instead of cumin seeds. It wasn't bad but mostly tasted like soy sauce.

I actually liked it better this way than the second time, when I got the spices right. I love curry powder, but 1/4 cup of dried spice on tofu...just not working for me. It tasted kind of gritty and flat. Oh well.

I wanted to make mashed potatoes with it, and I always try and make these healthier by using as little fat as possible. Usually I mash 'em with just a little soy milk, but this time I used the leftover marinade from the tofu. It was actually pretty tasty, if I do say so myself. Since I won't be trying the tofu recipe again I think I'll try mashed potatoes with a little olive oil, vegetable broth, curry powder and cumin next time I make an Indian dish.

Product Quest - mascara

I've found that the 'second' part of veganism - using animal-free products - is generally no big deal. I'm lucky enough to have a great little organic market in my neighborhood that carries things like vegetarian (and even eco-friendly) soap, hair products, moisturizers and cleaning supplies. They don't cost much more than the stuff I used to buy and they work just as well or better.

Make-up, however, has been more of a challenge. I don't wear a lot of it, but I'm addicted to mascara. As horribly cliched as it sounds, I don't like leaving the house without it. I have very long lashes, but they're very very blonde, so without mascara I appear to have none at all. For years I used Loreal Voluminous, which does a great job.

Picture for comparison. The perfect mascara...or it would be, if it was vegan!

I couldn't find any animal-free mascara in stores, so I ordered two from vegan essentials.
  • Mascara by ZuZu Luxe: I think mine is defective. It's seems really dried up, so I have to apply it like 10 times to see any difference. I got the Onyx color but it seems more brown thank black (my camera sucks so the picture makes it look darker than it really comes out). This has some good reviews on vegan essentials, so I think I just got a bad tube, but for $12.95 I won't be trying again.

  • Ecco Bella Mascara: Eh. It works, but not very well. My lashes get nice and dark, but look very thin, especially compared to the Loreal. Also halfway through the day it starts to come off and I get spots under my eyes. On the plus side, very easy to wash off at the end of the day. But I won't be buying this again either due to the smearing.

And so the search continues.