Site Meter

December 31, 2010

New Year's Stew

It was just last year that I learned of the southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas and greens on New Year's Day for good luck. Lucky or not, count me in for any tradition that involves eating these most adorable, delicious little beans!

This stew is hearty, with a rich beef flavored broth. The beans and greens meet in the pot with pearl onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, turnips, and fresh herbs. You may sub chopped onion for the pearl onions, and potatoes for the turnips, if you prefer. My stew is inspired by the seitan based Beefless Stew on Vegan Good Things.

Much love, and a little luck, to you and yours in the New Year!

New Year's Stew
Serves 4 generously

2 tbsp vegetable oil
8 oz pearl onions, peeled (use pre-peeled frozen onions for super convenience)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
10 cremini or or white button mushrooms, quartered
2 ribs of celery, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried, chopped)
2 tsp fresh sage leaves, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
3 tbsp flour
3 cups vegetarian beef broth (or vegetable broth)
1 cup dry red wine
4 medium turnips, peeled and chopped
2 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce 
2 cups cooked black-eyed peas (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
5 collard green leaves, center rib removed, and chopped (or turnip greens, or kale)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions, garlic, and mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in celery, carrots, and herbs and saute for 3 more minutes. Sprinkle in the flour, and then slowly stir in the broth and red wine. Turn up heat to bring to a boil.

Add turnips and reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the turnips and other veggies are tender to your liking. Stir in the black-eyed peas, greens, and worcestershire sauce and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with a side of brown rice.

Making this stew was a good excuse to try out a few of my new toys from Christmas. Check out this beauty that Steve gave me, my first piece of enameled cast iron cookware! *Swoon* This 6 quart dutch oven is made by Lodge, and is much more affordable than Le Creuset. You can even fool everyone if you buy the Le Creuset knob! Amazon recommends the Le Creuset knob as an accompanying purchase to the Lodge dutch oven, which made me laugh! No new knob for me, I am a proud Lodge owner.

To accompany my stew I made a pot of brown rice in my new rice cooker. What a handy fun little gadget! The rice turned out perfect.

I also got to play around with my favorite gift of all, a hand-me-down digital SLR from my little brother! He has moved on to bigger and better cameras, so he decided to give me his older Canon 30D. I have so much to learn about using the camera and editing the photos, but I am on my way! I am looking forward to some serious photography in the coming year!

Well, and some not so serious photography, too..

Am I a horrible person?
Signing out for 2010. I hope you have a very Happy New Year, and I'll catch you in 2011!

December 30, 2010

Cranberry Orange Tart with Walnuts and a Chocolate Crust

I love Christmas and I am in a bit of denial about it being over. Alas, the evidence is mounting, much like the massive pile of garbage that I put out on the curb this morning. The cookies are gone. All of the out-of-towners have returned home. The Christmas music on the radio and the Christmas movies on television have come to a halt. The Christmas sections at every store are marked down on clearance.

If you are like me, take comfort! Christmas will come again. In the meantime perhaps you have room for just one. more. dessert.

This tart is comprised of a rich chocolaty crust, brimming with fresh cranberries and toasted walnuts, bound by cheery orange flavors. Top this dessert off with a dusting of powdered sugar just before serving for an extra festive finish. I made five 4-inch tarts with this recipe as pictured above, and while the results were adorable, each tart was much too large for a single serving. This recipe would do best in a 10-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom.

Cranberry Orange Tart with Walnuts and a Chocolate Crust
Serves 10

(adapted from Bon App├ętit)

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons chilled earth balance, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons ice water

(adapted from Cooking Light)

1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange marmalade
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon grated orange rind (about 2 oranges)
1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries

Spray 10-inch round tart pan with non-stick spray. Put the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt in processor, and pulse to combine. Add earth balance and pulse until a moist sandy texture forms. Add water and blend just until dough comes together. Press the dough evenly into the bottom and sides of the prepared pan, and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 and start preparing the filling. Whisk together orange juice and cornstarch in a large bowl. Mix in all remaining ingredients. Once the crust has chilled for 30 minutes, pour the filling in and place pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, and then reduce temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 35 minutes. The crust should be firm and the filling will be bubbly. Cool completely. Just before serving sift a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar over the top of the tart, if desired.

December 15, 2010

Smoky Chipotle Split Pea and Barley Soup

Thank you all so much for your kind words regarding our engagement, Steve and I are very excited! I have been swept up in the excitement of wedding planning and the holidays, and have been neglecting the blog. That's not to say that I haven't been cooking! Most of my meals lately have been previously blogged recipes, such as Pumpkin Black Bean Chili, Butternut Rancheros, and White Chili with Tomatillos and Roasted Mushrooms, all worthy repeats I might add!

This weekend I made another old favorite, Split Pea and Barley Soup, but I decided to give the recipe a makeover. And what a makeover it was! Armed with ground chipotle and liquid smoke, I transformed my classic split pea into something totally new. If you are looking for a hearty, warming soup with a kick, this one is for you. Both standard stove top and pressure cooker methods provided below.

Smoky Chipotle Split Pea and Barley Soup
Serves 6

1-1/2 cups green split peas, rinsed and picked over
1/3 cup pearled barley
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large or 2 small carrots, peeled and sliced
2 ribs of celery, sliced
10 cups water
4 not chick'n bouillon (or sub your preferred bouillon)
2 tsp thyme
3/4 tsp ground chipotle pepper (or try canned, diced. Start with 1/2 a chipotle pepper and adjust)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
dash cayenne
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1 tbsp lime juice

Amazing Homemade Vegan Bacon
vegan sour cream

Stove top method: Heat 1/4 cup water in a large pot and saute onion and garlic until the onion is translucent.  Stir in thyme, chipotle pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne, and bay leaf, and saute for 1 minute stirring constantly.

Add 10 cups of water, bouillon cubes, and peas. Turn up to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and partially cover. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

After 1 hour of simmering the peas should be starting to break down a bit. Add in the barley, carrots, and celery and continue simmering (partially covered) for 45 minutes to an hour, until the peas have completely broken down. If the soup starts to thicken too much add extra water 1 cup at a time as needed, maintaining the thickness that you prefer.

Once the peas have completely broken down, and the barley, carrots, and celery are tender, remove from heat. Remove bay leaf and stir in liquid smoke and lime juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired. Serve hot, topped with a tablespoon of vegan sour cream and a slice of vegan bacon, fried and chopped.

Pressure cooker method: Put 6 cups of water, split peas, and barley into the pressure cooker. Cook at high pressure for 6 minutes and allow pressure to come down naturally.

While the pressure cooker is doing its thing, heat 1/4 cup water is a large pot. Saute onion and garlic until the onion is translucent. Stir in thyme, chipotle pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne, and bay leaf, and saute for 1 minute stirring constantly. Add 4 cups of water, bouillon cubes, carrots, and celery and turn up heat to bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and partially cover. Simmer 30 minutes or until carrots and celery are tender. By this time the pressure cooker should be done releasing the pressure. Empty the contents of the pressure cooker into the other pot and stir to combine. Remove bay leaf, stir in liquid smoke, lime juice, and water if needed to reach the desired thickness. Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired. Serve hot, topped with a tablespoon of vegan sour cream and a slice of vegan bacon, fried and chopped.

(A third option is to cook everything in the pressure cooker. The only downside is that the carrots and celery may be overcooked. To combat this slice them thicker. Start by sauteing the onion and garlic in the cooker for 5 minutes, then add all of the other ingredients less that liquid smoke and lime juice, and cook for 6 minutes at high pressure, and allow the pressure to come down naturally. Stir in the liquid smoke and lime juice at the end).

Other haps:

Check out my new ornaments!

A wee candy cane monster compliments of Panda With Cookie. This etsy shop offers monsters in all sizes, tofu pirates, adorable onesies, and more. This is not my first Panda original, you may remember the tofu pirate apron I nabbed earlier this year. Hooray for vegan crafters!

I am submitting the wee monster photo to the festive photo round of No Croutons Required. Entries accepted until Dec 20, voting opens the 21st at Tinned Tomatoes.

My other new ornament this year is one I bought in Tennessee the day that Steve proposed. I don't normally buy the clay personalized ornaments, but it seemed meant to be when I saw it!

My Christmas present to myself this year was a box of goodies from Pangea Vegan Store. I wanted to try several vegan products that I have not been able to find locally including vegan white chocolate chips, soy curls, parmazano, and dried soy creamer packets. I also decided to try out 2 gravy mixes, vegetable broth powder, and a few cheezly flavors (on sale $.99 each!). I was super impressed by how quickly my order arrived. I placed my order mid-morning, it shipped the same day and was on my doorstep 2 days later!

I am looking for suggestions of how to use these precious white chocolate chips and soy curls. What are you favorite uses?

November 30, 2010

A Smoky Mountains Engagement

As you probably guessed by the title of this post, I am engaged! The day after Thanksgiving Steve and I went for a hike to Laurel Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was there that Steve got down on one knee and asked me to be his bride.

I am exploding with excitement and anxiousness. In the coming months we will be making important decisions regarding the wedding, the honeymoon, and our new lives together. We are thinking that October 8 will be our date, but I really just want it to be tomorrow.

I just love this guy so darn much! What more can I say?

November 24, 2010

Vegan MoFo #18: Road Trip Snacks and Chickpea "Eggy" Salad

In about an hour I will be packing up my car with my stuff, my boyfriend, and my brother and heading down to Knoxville, Tennessee for a Smoky Mountain Thanksgiving! Lots of family time, country music, and Dollywood await us. I am not looking forward to this 10 hour drive, but I will have my two favorite guys to keep me entertained and some of my favorite vegan snacks to keep me satisfied.

Vegan Road Trip Snacks
My snacks for the road include pretzel slims with hummus, pistachios, bananas, and snapea crisps. I also brought some almond milk to use all weekend, and some instant oatmeal and vegan muffins for breakfast options. Those muffins are a new find at Trader Joe's, they had about 5-6 vegan muffin flavors to choose from (who knew??). I chose the Cranberry Orange Bran Muffins, which are organic, agave sweetened, and low-fat.

Garein Savory Stuffed Turk'y
You may have also noticed the Garein Savory Stuffed Turk'y in the midst. These are for Steve and I to eat for our main course at Thanksgiving dinner at my Grandparents' house. Not pictured is the Southern Comfort Caramel Apple Pie that I am also bringing. This pie was such a hit at my Thanksgiving dinner party that I decided to make it again to share with my family.

Chickpea "Eggy" Salad
Leading up to this trip, I have been subsiding mostly on leftovers (poor me!). However, I was able to transform some of the leftovers into something totally new. When I made the Tofu Deviled "Eggy" Bites I ended up with a lot of leftover "yolk", which I knew would be perfect for some vegan egg salad later. Usually vegan egg salad utilizes crumbled tofu for the meat of it, but I was out. Instead, I pulsed some chickpeas in the food processor until they were roughly chopped to achieve the chopped hard boiled egg texture. I stirred in the sauce and adjusted the seasoning with a little more black salt, sea salt, pepper, and chives and I was in business! Very, very egg salad-like, which is an old favorite. I like that the sauce has only a little bit of vegan mayo and is mostly pureed white beans, which is much healthier than the mayo-heavy egg salad recipes. As much as I enjoyed this with chickpeas, I'd like to try it with tofu next time, but only because with the beany sauce this is beans on beans. Nothing wrong with that, but definitely something to go easy on.

I hope to do some blogging from Tennessee, but I may not. Either way, I will be posting at least two more times this month to reach by goal of 20 total posts for Vegan MoFo. Can you believe it's almost over kids? *sob*  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and I will catch up with you soon!

November 23, 2010

Vegan MoFo #17: Baking Bread

Really Easy No Knead Bread
One of the things that I hoped to accomplish during Vegan MoFo was to make a loaf of bread from scratch for the first time. I did not include this in the list of goals in my first MoFo post because I was afraid that this would be the first to fall by the wayside. Well I proved myself wrong! I really have many other MoFo bloggers to thank for their inspiring bread posts, including Monica, Mihl, Panda, Amey, and Jennifer. In fact, it was a comment that I left on Monica's Quick Rye Bread post that finally led me to the bread that I would make. I asked for her recommendation of an easy, fool-proof bread recipe and she provided just that, complete with photos! This bread is so easy it practically makes itself, and no need for stonewear or enamel dutch ovens, I used a metal loaf pan with perfect results. Check out the comments section of this post for her instructions and photos.


I am ready to try baking some more breads and I'd love your recommendations! What are your favorite bread recipes?

November 22, 2010

Vegan MoFo #16: My First Vegan Thanksgiving

Vegan Thanksgiving Proper
I thought it would be wonderful to celebrate my first Thanksgiving as a vegan with an all-vegan meal. My family is not ready for this kind of celebration, so I invited seven friends over on Saturday night to celebrate my way. Despite being the only vegan in attendance, the two vegetarians plus five omnivores were very enthusiastic about the all-vegan menu. My goal was to wow everyone with several vegan versions of classic Thanksgiving dishes. In typical Thanksgiving fashion, this meal was indulgent, and by no means health food. The end result made it all worth it, there were plenty of wows to go around!

Tofu Deviled "Eggy" Bites
For appetizers we started with Tofu Deviled "Eggy" Bites. This is Bianca's magical recipe, which utilizes an Indian spice, black salt, to simulate the flavor of eggs. Everyone agreed that these were surprisingly authentic, and this platter emptied quickly!

Artichoke Dip
To go with the Tofu Deviled Eggy Bites, my friend Jenny brought Artichoke Dip with pita chips. I highly recommend this recipe from C'est La Vegan, it was a favorite at the party.

I was going to make a third appetizer, Lindsay's Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms, but I ran out of time. Sad! I hope to make these for Christmas, if I can wait that long!

Pumpkin Nog Martini
We enjoyed some pre-dinner cocktails of Pumpkin Nog Martinis. This blend of Silk Nog, vanilla vodka, cinnamon, and pumpkin puree were inspired by Heather's Pumpkin Pie Bliss. I topped these off with Soyatoo Whip, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a cinnamon stick.

Soy and Seitan "Turkey"
For the main event, I made Bryanna Clark Grogan's Soy and Seitan "Turkey". Unfortunately this recipe has been taken offline, so I don't have a link for you. The base of this "turkey" is a blend of tofu, wheat gluten, and chickpea flour. This roasts at a low temperature for 4 hours in a vegan chicken-flavored basting broth. The result is remarkable, perfect taste and texture, which was enjoyed by all.

Green Bean Casserole
 In selecting classic Thanksgiving side dishes, I knew that it had to include a green bean casserole. I chose Susan's recipe, which is rightfully titled The Best Vegan Green Bean Casserole. This was so fresh and delicious, way better than the standard cream of mushroom soup and canned green bean variety.

Sweet Potato Casserole
I chose another one of Susan's recipes for the Sweet Potato Casserole. Many bloggers have praised this recipe, and they were absolutely right to. The light flavors of orange and vanilla are what make this casserole extra special. This was the most talked about dish at the table!

Cornbread Scallion Pecan Stuffing
Thanksgiving would not be complete without some stuffing. I decided to go with a not-so-traditional recipe, Terry's Cornbread Scallion Pecan Stuffing. Homemade crumbled cornbread meets vegan sausage, leeks, onion, green onion, red bell pepper, chopped pecans, and a bit of cayenne pepper for a substantial, lightly spicy, and meaty stuffing. Delicious!

Mashed Potatoes
Then of course there were mashed potatoes. I used yukon gold potatoes, because they are the creamiest and the skin is tender enough to mash right in. Into the mash went a bit of soymilk, olive oil, and salt for mashed potato perfection!

"Poultry" Gravy
And what is "turkey", stuffing, and mashed potatoes without some gravy? I chose C'est La Vegan's "Poultry" Gravy, which turned out to be a very good decision. This gravy is so, so good!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Last but not least, some roasted Brussels sprouts to round out the meal. I forgot to take a picture of Carolyn's delicious homemade cranberry sauce, but you can spot some on my plate at the top of this post.

Steve and Carolyn at the buffet line
My guests descended onto the buffet line with enthusiasm, and we feasted until we could feast no more! Well, until it was time to serve dessert anyway...

Vegan pies with ice cream and whipped cream
We may have made a bit too much pie, if there is such a thing! Carolyn brought a yummy chocolate pie, and I made the Pumpkin Cheesecake (recipe from PETA), Southern Comfort Caramel Apple Pie (recipe from Lisa Marie), and Pumpkin Pecan Pie (recipe from Fran Costigan). Steve was kind enough to bring the Tempt Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Soyatoo Soy Whip to top off our pies. Everyone had a favorite -- mine was definitely the Southern Comfort Caramel Apple Pie, oh my goodness!

A big thanks to my wonderful friends who celebrated my first vegan Thanksgiving with me! Thanks also to all of the lovely bloggers that created these outstanding recipes, I could not have done it without you. Happy Thanksgiving!

November 18, 2010

Vegan MoFo #15: Homemade "Beef" and Sweet Potato Tacos

Ever since the massive positive response to my homemade vegan bacon recipe last week, I have wanted to share my favorite homemade ground beef substitute. It is another easy, affordable, freezer-friendly, gluten-free, and optionally soy-free recipe. A genius creation of Ricki Heller, this recipe is a blend of ground cauliflower, walnuts, and spices, roasted to perfection. So simple, so delicious, and surprisingly meaty!

I've had some serious cravings for Mexican ever since I saw Jessy's tostadas and Lisa Marie's tacos. I decided tacos were the perfect use for this homemade beef. Combined with sweet potatoes, black beans, corn and a generous drizzle of A-K's creamy pepita cilantro dressing, this was just what I was craving. This meal was rounded out by a side of spicy roasted kuri squash. It doesn't get much better than that!

The two stars of these tacos are the meat and the dressing, which are not my recipes. I've provided links to the original recipes below, along with my technique for assembling these tacos. This dish will be included in the November SOS Kitchen Challenge featuring sweet potatoes. To participate submit your own sweet or savory sweet potato dishes before the end of the month.

Homemade "Beef" and Sweet Potato Tacos 
with Creamy Pepita Cilantro Dressing
(Serves 4)

1 cup of Ricki's Meaty Veg-Based Ground "Meat"
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 small or 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2" pieces (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup corn kernels, frozen, fresh, or canned
1 cup cooked black beans
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
1/2 tsp sea salt
Generous drizzle of A-K's Creamy Cilantro Pepita Dressing (not optional)
4 large or 6 small tortillas

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet. Add onions and saute for 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and continue to saute for another 3 minutes.

Stir in the sweet potatoes and saute for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sweet potatoes are tender and lightly browned.

Stir in the spices, corn, black beans, and "meat", and cook for 2-3 minutes, until hot. Serve inside tortillas of your choice with a big drizzle of dressing.

November 17, 2010

Vegan MoFo #14: Red Lentil-Cauliflower Curry

Just a quick post today to share one of my favorite recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Veganomicon. I come back again and again to the Red Lentil-Cauliflower Curry (page 186). This recipe transforms a head of cauliflower and a cup and a half of red lentils into a giant pot of creamy delicious curry. The lentils break down in the broth to create a thick, protein-packed sauce which coats the cauliflower florets. This is a great weeknight meal, which results in lots of tasty leftovers to pack for lunch at work. I cannot say enough good things about this recipe, or this cookbook for that matter!

Your turn to share, what are your favorite Veganomicon recipes?

November 16, 2010

Vegan MoFo #13: Twice Baked Acorn Squash

I am starting to notice a recurring ingredient in my Vegan MoFo posts: winter squash. There has been kabocha, delicata, pumpkin, and butternut squash, now it is time for some acorn squash!

Admittedly, the flavor and texture of acorn squash is my least favorite of all winter squashes. The most popular way to prepare this squash is to stuff it with sweet or savory fillings, but for me the stuffing never seems to flavor (read: cover up) the squash enough. I had all but given up on this popular winter squash, and then I found a method for twice baked acorn squash. Baked first, then the flesh is scooped out and mashed up with the stuffing, before being packed back into the skin and baked once more.

This method worked perfectly and took away all of my reasons that I normally dislike acorn squash. I pureed the squash flesh which eliminated any stringy bits that usually gross me out, and into the food processor went some additional flavoring to spice up the bland taste that normally bores me. If you are without a food processor, never fear, you can easily mash up the squash by hand.

I encourage you to try out this method with your favorite squash stuffing. For me, that was wild rice, cremini mushrooms, leeks, and peas -- a real savory squash treat!

Twice Baked Acorn Squash
(inspired by Hangry Pants)
Serves 2

1 large acorn squash, sliced in half top to bottom, seeds removed
1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
2 leeks, white and light green parts, sliced
2 cups sliced mushrooms (I used cremini)
2 cloves of garlic, minced 
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tbsp dried)
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 tbsp unsweetened non-dairy milk
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp chopped parsley

Prepare rice according to package directions. While the rice is simmering, prepare the squash. Preheat oven to 400. Place squash halves face down in casserole dish in 1/2" of water. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the flesh is very tender. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes. (May do both a day ahead). Lower heat to 350.

Heat 1/2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Add leeks, garlic, and thyme and saute for 4-5 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are lightly browned. Stir in peas when the mushrooms are nearly done, just long enough to thaw them. Stir in rice and remove from heat.

Scoop out squash flesh leaving about 1/4" in the skin to hold the structure, reserve skins. Puree flesh in food processor or mash by hand, along with non-dairy milk, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, mustard, onion powder, paprika, and salt, until smooth.

Pour squash mixture into the pan with the rice mixture, and add parsley. Stir to coat. Stuff the squash skins with mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until hot. Serve and enjoy!

November 15, 2010

Vegan MoFo #12: Karyn's Cooked and Scottie Pippen

Saturday night was a most excellent date night, starting with dinner at one of my favorite vegan restaurants in Chicago, Karyn's Cooked.

Combo basket appetizer
We started with a combo basket of dusted and fried tofu, broccoli, and mushrooms. The veggies are very lightly battered and they use olive oil for frying, the result is very fresh and light tasting. These come with their delicious homemade bbq and ranch-style dipping sauces.

Jerk Tofu Wrap
For my main dish I chose the jerk tofu wrap. This is served with potato wedges and cole slaw. This was my first time eating jerk anything and I was a little bit shocked by the spice! I love extremely spicy things, but this was extremely spicy in a different way than I have ever experienced. The tofu was charred, and the tortilla grilled to the point of being blackened--this was visually pleasing, but it left an unfortunate burnt aftertaste. The hot hot jerk spices and the burnt aftertaste was a bad combination for me. This is the first time I have ever not liked my dish at Karyn's, but it does not make me love the place any less!

Steak Sandwich
Steve ordered the steak sandwich--a whole wheat bun piled high with thinly sliced seitan steak, topped with grilled onions and bell peppers, and dressed with chipotle sauce. I wish you could see better from the picture, but you wouldn't be able to tell this seitan apart from a plate of thinly sliced roast beef, pretty amazing stuff! We both liked this a lot more than my wrap, but for some reason the seitan had been charred in a few places too, so some bites tasted burnt and were extra chewy. We both discovered that the charred flavor is not for us. Aside from that, this sandwich was great.

Pumpkin Pie
Karyn's desserts are amazing! I especially love that they are made without refined sugar. I have a hard time resisting the chocolate silk pie, but pumpkin pie was definitely in order for this visit. This is my first fall season as a vegan and I had yet to try a plain vegan pumpkin pie. Karyn's pumpkin pie did not disappoint, wonderfully spiced with texture perfectly matched to the standard non-vegan version. The only thing that would have made this pie better is a helping of vegan whipped cream on top.

After dinner we headed to the United Center to see the Chicago Bulls play the Washington Wizards. Steve's dad scored first level skybox seats from work for us, so we were pretty close to the action!

I became distracted from the game when I realized that former Chicago Bull and basketball hall-of-famer, Scottie Pippen, was in the next skybox! In the history of the Chicago Bulls, Pippen's fame is second only to Michael Jordan, whom he played side-by-side with in six winning NBA championships in the 1990's. It felt kind of wrong to bug him for a photo in this setting, but I would have kicked myself forever if I hadn't. He is just as tall as you'd imagine a basketball player to be. I am 5'9", and he is slightly bent forward in this photo, so that will give you an idea. Huge! The Bulls ended up winning which was an excellent ending to a perfect date.

Stay tuned as week 3 of Vegan MoFo continues with some delicious new recipes!

November 12, 2010

Vegan MoFo #11: The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur

I set a goal to post at least 20 times in the month of November, so with this post I am officially past the halfway mark! Who knows, at this rate I may even surpass my goal. Participating in Vegan MoFo has been wonderfully challenging so far. I was pretty tired the first week, staying up too late to write every night, but I have gotten into my groove now. My writing process tends to be lengthy, but it seems that this is improving with daily practice. I plan to keep up the habit of frequent posting even when Vegan MoFo is over. The best part of this month of food by far has been connecting with so many vegan bloggers. You all inspire me, and I thank you for that!

I am not sure if I should credit MoFo or the cooler weather, but I have been on a major baking kick, first with Isa and Terry, then with Fran, now with Kelly. Kelly Peloza is the newest vegan dessert cookbook author to hit the scene. Her book, The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, is loaded with over 140 cookie recipes, with gorgeous full color pictures throughout. Some of the sections found within are Cookies Inspired by Drinks, Blissfully Chocolate Cookies, DIY Versions of Mass-Produced Cookies, Bar Cookies, A Take on Tradition, and several more.

Bakery-Style Crispy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Where to start when you are faced with over 140 choices? I figured the best way to get to know this author's style would be to start with something classic, and it doesn't get more classic than chocolate chip cookies. Then I discovered that she has FIVE chocolate chip cookie recipe options, and that doesn't even include the gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and the candy cane chocolate chip cookies! Crisp, chewy chocolate chip cookies are my preference, so the obvious choice was the Bakery-Style Crispy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. My batch were chewy, in a really awesome way, but not crisp. The recipe doesn't call for any non-dairy milk at all, but it does suggest to add some if the dough is too dry. I had to add some and was careful to only add enough to get the dough to hold together. I am thinking that the texture of the finished cookie could have benefited from a little more soy milk. This recipe is definitely good, but not the perfect chocolate chip cookie for me. I plan to try some of her other chocolate chip cookie recipes as I continue my quest to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie!

Peanut Butter Chocolate-Covered Pretzel Bars
My boyfriend's favorite sweet-salty snack is a toss up between chocolate-covered pretzels and chocolate-covered peanuts. Kelly came up with a bar cookie that involves these two very things, so of course I had to make these for Steve. The Peanut Butter Chocolate-Covered Pretzel Bars are made up of a peanut butter cookie base piled high with hand dipped chocolate-covered peanuts and pretzels. The base was my favorite part, reminding me of a peanut butter blondie. Hand-dipping the pretzels and peanuts in chocolate was a lot of fun, and I appreciated the awesome makeshift double boiler tips for melting the chocolate (up until now I've been a microwave-melter)! If your fresh-dipped peanuts and pretzels behave like mine and don't want to harden all the way at room temperature, just toss them in the fridge for 10 minutes to finish the hardening process. I also opted to chop my chocolate dipped goodies rather than breaking apart by hand. Steve's reaction to this bar cookie was exactly what I hoped for! Rich peanut-buttery base, with a chocolate-covered salty/sweet crunchy top, this is the perfect cookie for him.

Almond Cloud Kisses
My favorite cookies so far are the Almond Cloud Kisses. Mine turned out pretty clumsy looking in comparison to Kelly's, but that didn't take away from the taste. Dense, not too sweet, shortbread-like almond cookies come together with a smear of melted chocolate, for a (potentially) adorable cookie. I had the same issue that I did with the chocolate chip cookies, needing to add more soy milk than the recipe calls for in order for the dough to hold together. This time I was a little bit more generous with the additional soy milk, and the result was great.

Autumn Cloud Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
For the last cookie that I sampled I went for the Autumn Cloud Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies. This was the first time pumpkin and chocolate crossed paths in my kitchen, and I was very pleased with the flavor combination. The cookie itself was an odd texture, more fluffy and spongy like a muffin. I would be very curious to see how the dough would behave in a muffin pan. If you have been searching for the perfect cookie-muffin hybrid (muffin tops anyone?), this cookie is for you!

Whew, that's a lot of cookies, and I have barely scratched the surface of the cookie options in The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur! Sooner than later I plan to try several more (I am looking at you Puppy Chow Cookies).

So, what will you be baking this weekend?