31 October 2009

How do you eat it? With your hands?!!?

This topic seems particularly well suited to Halloween, so get ready to be jealous.  I finally got the new Go Max Go candy bars in my area!  woot woot.  Actually, cut that down to one woot ... the main problem with these candy bars is the price -- a whopping $2.49 for one stinking candy bar!  So these won't be an every day extravagance for me, but I couldn't resist trying just one.  Feast your eyes on this baby -- the Jokerz.  Commence gratuitous candy bar shots.

It isn't an exact replica of my once-beloved Snickers bar, but it is really damn good.  I can already tell this will be my go-to pick me up candy bar for my most dire bad moods.  If you can afford the $2.49 price tag, and they are available in your area, I suggest you hustle on over and pick one up.  Just make sure to enjoy it the way God and Seinfeld intended -- with knife and fork!

30 October 2009

Soup's on

We had the black bean soup from Vegan Vittles for dinner earlier this week.  It was definitely very good, although my boyfriend and I both thought it could use some more pepper.  That may just be my fault for not seasoning to taste during the actual cooking.  This is delicious garnished with some fresh avocado.

In addition to the soup, we had some fresh baked wheat bread and roasted brussel sprouts and okra.  The plate below is for two people, but I could easily eat all those veggies myself for one delicious dinner!

29 October 2009

nothing to say here.

Well, the end of October officially sucks. I'm sorry that I've fallen off the mofo wagon. I think I've done pretty well, and I'll try to find something to post about tomorrow. There is just a lot going on, most of it not too pleasant, so blogging has been the last thing on my mind.  Sorry to my (possibly?) one reader out there.

For today, I'll leave you with some bendable action figures I highly covet.  Mr. Bacon vs Monsieur Tofu and Captain Corndog vs the Baron von Broccoli. I know who would win in my kitchen.

27 October 2009

We're 1 and 1 on Stepaniak

For this week's cookbook challenge, I chose two recipes from Vegan Vittles by Joanne Stepaniak.  I made "Mark's Miracle Black Bean Soup" (pg. 85) and "Macaroni & Cheeze" (pg. 124) on Sunday.

I'll start with the mac & cheeze ... honestly, I wasn't impressed.  I've made several recipes that I enjoyed more, my favorite so far being the New Farm cookbook version.  I found this version to be dry and not very flavorful.  I don't know if I overcooked the sauce and caused too much to evaporate, but I would probably want to have twice as much for the amount of noodles involved.  It could also use a few more spices for my liking.  I probably won't make this again, considering how many mac & cheeze recipes there are in the world.

I also made black bean soup, although I haven't eaten it.  I made it for a quick dinner later this week.  Working at ITT Tech, there are three nights a week that I don't get home until 10:00 or later, and usually end up cooking dinner then which means I eat sometime between 11 and midnight ... it's not the best plan for my schedule.  So, for the next few weeks at least, I'm going to try to make something on Sundays that I can easily heat up another night.  For the purpose of this post, I took a bite of the soup.  The flavor is very good, but the soup is thinner than I usually like black bean soup to be.  To overcome this, I used my trusty immersion blender to blend the heck out of the soup, and then I dumped in some extra black beans to up the chunkiness factor again ... I know, I'm back tracking ;) For me, I think the change in texture was a very good one.  I've got a ton of soup now for dinner(s) this week, which hopefully will help keep me on a better schedule.  With some crusty, hearty bread, this soup should be amazing.

This is the last week of Vegan Mofo, but I think I'll keep up the cookbook challenge with some regularity afterward because it's always fun to test out some new cookbooks.  To cap off Vegan Mofo, though, I'm going to pick three cookbooks I've not used nearly enough:

How It All Vegan
The Garden of Vegan
La Dolce Vegan

If anyone has a suggestion, I'm happy to hear it!

26 October 2009

Let's do the time warp again!

I don't know about you, but when I hear "Time Warp" I immediately think of Rocky Horror Picture Show and their stunning musical number.  Only recently did I find out that Time Warp is also a tv show on Discovery.  Basically, they video things with high speed cameras and play them back in ultra-slow-mo.  When I first heard about it, I thought, "This could not possibly be interesting," but I was wrong.  It was surprisingly cool to watch the minutest details of ordinary things.  You can see in the video below some jello splooshing around.  I know jello isn't vegan, but it looks really cool, and I think that agar jello would look the same.  I suggest you check the show out, if you haven't seen it before.

25 October 2009

Win a cookbook

As I've mentioned, I have a big desire for cookbooks, so I couldn't pass up the chance to enter this giveaway.  Christina, over at Dinner at Christina's, is giving away two cookbooks in honor of her birthday.  Head on over there and enter yourself.  And if you get one, you'll have to let me take a look at it ;)

23 October 2009

A Traveling Vegan

I may have jumped in to the vegan blogging thing a little too quickly, as I am finding it difficult to find things to talk about every day.  In an effort to fill the space for today, I'm just going to brag about a few of the amazing vegan restaurants I've been to on my many (well, not so many) travels.  Don't be afraid if you feel strong pangs of jealousy; it's perfectly natural.  Just get yourself a plane ticket and try something out!

First up, we have Chicago Diner.  I've been to Chicago twice, both times to visit my very good friend Dabney who has lived there since high school.  The first time was in early 2008, and I was only visiting for a weekend.  Dabney lived in the wrong (for visiting the diner) part of Chicago, but we managed to make one trip over there for breakfast.  It was good, not amazing, but definitely good.  Last March, I went back for a second, longer visit.  This time I lucked out because Dabney lived less than a mile from the diner!  Knowing that an all-vegetarian restaurant was in walking distance of me was pretty awesome, and I went three three times (once just to get a milkshake).  I had much better luck this visit; the food was awesome, the waiters were very helpful with recommendations, and the milkshakes were to die for!

Over the summer, I visited some friends in Seattle.  Rick was interning with Microsoft at the time and had to go on a work-related trip while we were there.  But the rest of us made a trek to Mighty O's Donuts.  As the only vegan in the group (of three people), I took it upon myself to buy a dozen donuts for us all to share.  I can't even remember the miriad kinds we got, but they were so so so good.  I cannot stress enough how good they were.  Maybe it's the lack of donuts for the last 2 1/2 years, maybe it's true, but they were the best donuts I've ever had.

Finally, I want to mention a restaurant that I always visit in Cincinnati when I go to see my best friend, Sarah (who is also vegan), Melt.  They have, hands down, the best vegan cheddar I've eaten.  If you go there and get a sandwich and it doesn't have vegan cheddar, ask them to change it!  It is just that good.  The rosemary potatoes are worth the trip alone.  Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures at Melt; I suppose because we go so much.  Next time I'm in Cincy, we'll definitely take a moment for a photo op.

21 October 2009

Cooking with Moby

I'm not having a great day, and so here comes some filler ...
For anyone who hasn't seen it already, here's Moby making vegan pancakes. Enjoy

20 October 2009

Roasty Toasty

This is a short post (like a lot of my posts).  I just want to show off a recent bit of deliciousness that I enjoyed.  It's basically an amalgam of the Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Toasted Garlic recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance and the Roasted Okra recipe on FatFreeVegan.  I assume you could throw any vegetable in there that you want to roast with garlic.  This is definitely my favorite way to eat both brussel sprouts and okra; put them together and it's genius!

Roasted okra is just about the best way to eat okra, but I'll give you a word of warning.  Make sure you have small okra.  I tried this with larger okra and they never lost the woody quality that okra gets when it gets bigger.  Stick with the small stuff.

Below you can see a picture of the pre-roasted veggies.  As happens so often with me, there is no post-roasting/pre-eating picture right now because I gobbled it all up too fast.  I have some extra sprouts and okra in my fridge, though, so I see a repeat of this dish in the coming week.  Hopefully I'll remember to snap an after picture then.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Okra
(with very few measurements)

A bunch of okra
A bunch of brussel sprouts
~1 T olive oil 
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped 
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450*.  Clean the okra (by rinsing off well) and brussel sprouts (chop off the knobby ends, cut in half lengthwise, and remove any funky looking leaves).  Toss okra and brussel sprouts in a deep baking dish with olive oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper (or any other spices you might like).  Roast for 10 minutes.  Add the chopped garlic and stir it all around.  Roast for an additional 5 - 7 minutes. 

19 October 2009

As American as Vegan Apple Pie

I'm pretty sure that my boyfriend has been asking me to make an apple pie since we met.  I don't know if it's his favorite dessert, or he doesn't have anyone else who will make it, or he just didn't believe I could do it ... but it's been an ongoing request for I'm-not-even-sure-how-long.  Turns out last weekend was the time to do it.

I used the standard pie crust from The Joy of Cooking (subbing Earth Balance for butter, of course).  I used the America's Test Kitchen pie recipe to fill up my pie shell (from the 2006 season and accompanying cookbook).  The secret is, they use a ton (5 lbs) of apples and cook them before assembling the pie.  This means that the apples don't shrink in the oven, leaving you with a cavernous upper crust with apples not appearing till inches below.  We used a mix of Granny Smith and Gala apples to fill the pie.  I don't mean to toot my own horn, but this was a pretty good pie.  I may have underbaked it a little, but upon a reheat in the oven, it was perfect.  And with a scoop of coconut milk vanilla ice cream, it was heaven. :: drool ::

18 October 2009

Brunchin' it up!

For today's personal cookbook challenge, I chose two recipes out of Vegan Brunch to try: Old Fashioned Chelsea Waffles and Basic Tofu Scramble.

The waffles turned out deliciously, and were a nice change from the waffles I usually make (from Vegan Cooking for Everyone).  They had a slightly sweet flavor on their own and very light texture.  The only change I made to the recipe was substituting Brown Rice Syrup for the Barley Malt Syrup, simply because I had rice syrup on hand.

The tofu scramble was good, although a little too heavily spiced for me.  I think it had a bit too much thyme, so I may just cut back on that next time I make it.  I added red onions, red and green bell peppers, and sliced mushrooms to complete the dish.

My boyfriend even ate a few bites of the tofu scramble and agreed that it was a little heavy on the thyme, but overall good (score!).  My friends, Rick and Elizabeth, came over to steal my internet and Rick had several nice things to say about the waffles between mouthfuls.  Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of any of it.  By the time I finished cooking, I was too hungry to remember to pause for a photo-op.  You'll just have to use your imagination on this one.

So, in case anyone wants to chime in on my cookbook challenge, my books for next week are those that I have by Joanne Stepaniak:

The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook
Table for Two
Vegan Vittles
Vegan Deli

I've had these books for ages and have honestly never cooked anything from any of them ... which is particularly embarrassing because I've seen some delicious dishes from her books on many other blogs.  Please, let me know what you think I should try from any of these four books.

17 October 2009

The Vegan 100: Another Vegan MoFo Survey

I've seen this list (or others like it) floating around for a while, but most recently saw it on Where's the Revolution? and figured I'd throw in my two cents.  Feel free to post it on your blog, too  Please leave a comment letting me know what your results are, what you'd NEVER EVER eat, or what you really want to try!

1) Copy this list into your blog or social networking site profile, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out or italicize any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment on this post linking to your results.

The Vegan Hundred:

1. Molasses
2. Cactus/Nopales
3. Scrambled Tofu
4. Grilled Portobella Caps
5. Fresh Ground Horseradish
6. Sweet Potato Biscuits
7. Arepa
8. Vegan Coleslaw
9. Ginger Carrot Soup
10. Fiddlehead Ferns
11. Roasted Elephant Garlic
12. Umeboshi (does the vinegar count?)
13. Almond Butter Toast
14. Aloe Vera
15. H and H Bagel NYC
16. Slow Roasted Butternut Squash
17. White truffle (in oil form- does that count?)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Freshly ground wasabi
20. Coconut Milk Ice Cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Orchard-fresh pressed apple cider
23. Organic California Mango
24. Quinoa
25. Papaya Smoothie
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet or Habañero pepper
27. Goji Berry Tea
28. Fennel
29. Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie
30. Radishes and Vegan Buttery Spread
31. Starfruit
32. Oven fresh Sourdough bread
33. Sangria made with premium fruit and juices (I don't know how premium they were, but I'm going to count it)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Acai Smoothie
36. Blue Foot Mushrooms
37. Vegan Cupcake from Babycakes nyc
38. Sweet Potatoes and Tempeh combo
39. Falafel
40. Spelt Crust Pizza
41. Salt and Pepper Oyster Mushrooms
42. Jicama Slaw
43. Pumpkin Edamame Ginger Dumplings
44. Hemp Milk
45. Rose Champagne
46. Fuyu
47. Raw Avocado-Coconut Soup
48. Tofu Pesto Sandwich
49. Apple-Lemon-Ginger-Cayenne fresh-pressed juice...with Extra Ginger

50. Grilled Seitan
51. Prickly pear
52. Fresh Pressed Almond Milk
53. Concord Grapes off the vine
54. Ramps
55. Coconut Water fresh from a young coconut
56. Organic Arugula
57. Vidalia Onion
58. Sampler of organic produce from Diamond Organics
59. Honeycrisp Apple
60. Poi
61. Vegan Campfire-toasted Smores
62. Grape seed Oil
63. Farm fresh-picked Peach
64. Freshly-made pita bread with freshly-made hummus
65. Chestnut Snack Packs
66. Fresh Guava
67. Mint Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
68. Raw Mallomar from One Lucky Duck, NYC 

69. Fried plantains
70. Mache
71. Golden Beets
72. Barrel-Fresh Pickles
73. Liquid Smoke
74. Meyer Lemon
75. Veggie Paella
76. Vegan Lasagna
77. Kombucha
78. Homemade Soy Milk
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Lychee Bellini
81. Tempeh Bacon
82. Sprouted Grain Bread
83. Lemon Pepper Tempeh
84. Vanilla Bean
85. Watercress
86. Carrot you pulled out of the ground yourself
87. Vegan In-Season Fruit Pie
88. Flowers
89. Corn Chowder
90. High Quality Vegan Raw Chocolate
91. Yellow fuzz-free Kiwi
92. White Flesh Grapefruit
93. Harissa
94. Coconut Oil
95. Jackfruit
96. Homemade Risotto
97. Spirulina
98. Seedless 'Pixie' Tangerine
99. Gourmet Sorbet, not store bought
100. Fresh Plucked English Peas

This seems like an odd list to me, but I got 52 1/2. I think that's not too bad ... Where do you stack up?

16 October 2009

A Sweet Surprise

I mentioned that I love getting packages in the mail.  My friend, Nitish, who lives in Switzerland (and was heavily featured in that post) recently sent me another fantastic package.  I checked my mailbox and look what I found!

I'll be honest, this chocolate is a lot sweeter than I'm used to.  But it was definitely sweet of Nitish to send it my way.  Now if only I can get some marshmallows, I'll be set for a nice s'more ;)

15 October 2009

The glory of an asian market

One of my favorite places to shop is an asian market.  So long as you can get past the fish smell, there are some great finds there.  I think being vegan and being used to smelling food that is not appetizing to me helps with that.  There is a great market in town called the Sunrise Market.  My favorite thing about Sunrise is the price comparison to other, more traditional groceries in the area.  My grocery of choice tends to be Kroger, because it's close and it usually has decent produce.  Just to give some recent produce price comparisons ...

Sunrise Market
Red Onions
Broccoli Crowns
Sugar Snap Peas
Baby Bananas
Red Bell Peppers
Habenero Peppers
Long Green Chile Peppers
Green Jalapenos

This doesn't even consider pantry staples like soy sauce, rice, spices, etc.  Kroger does have two things going for it: 1) it is very close to my house, whereas Sunrise is pretty far, 2) it is open 24 hours, and 3) everything is in English and it's a bit easier to verify that things are vegan.  That said, I still prefer Sunrise Market, and other, smaller asian markets in the area.  One caveat to this is, the produce at Sunrise looks more like something that would grow out of the ground, not the picture-perfect round onions and oblong potatoes, and shockingly even colored peppers you would likely find at a traditional grocery.  I'm okay with that; some people may not be.  To each his own.

My best non-produce buy so far has probably been some very inexpensive, very delicious (accidentally vegan) frozen spring rolls.  They are way cheaper than vegan ones at the grocery and at least 10 times tastier!  Does anyone have a favorite asian market find that I should look out for? Or some other ethnic market I should look into?  I've been to middle eastern markets and an indian market here, but I don't even know what else to look for.

14 October 2009

Hotel dining at its finest

Once again, I find myself on travel for work, this time to the lovely city of Houston.  Actually, I'm in a city (well, a census-designated place) near Houston called "The Woodlands".  I've never known a city in the US with an article in its name.  When I mentioned this to my mom, she brought up the Hague; it's that level of class.  But I digress ...

Luckily I'm only out of town overnight this time, so I shouldn't have quite as severe a case of missing my cat as usual.  Don't get me wrong, there are perks to traveling.  One of the great things about traveling with the university is per diem.  Instead of being reimbursed for the money that we actually spend on food, we are given a set amount every day (really for each meal, but per mealem isn't a thing ... ).  This amount is usually something like $40 - $50 per day, depending on the city.  I don't know about you, but $40 is a lot of food for me to eat in one day (just ask Melomeals, who's been eating on $3.33 a day or less since February).  The best part is, whatever of that I don't spend goes right in my pocket.  So, wanting to take full advantage of per diem, I planned ahead.  Instead of going out for dinner, I MacGyver'd it up and brought something to cook in my hotel room.  And I'm here to tell you that you can do it, too.  Whether you're on per diem or not, you can eat dinner in a hotel room armed only with a coffee pot and a spoon! Observe:

Step 1 - Bring to the hotel with you one package of ramen noodles of your choice (scrutinize carefully to ensure the seasoning packets are vegan. If the flavor is any kind of meat, it probably isn't vegan. If the flavoring isn't meat, it still may not be vegan ... so check, double check, and then ask the nice lady who works at the asian market).

Step 2 - Pour about a third to a half of a pot of water in to the coffee maker, depending on how soupy you like your ramen. I like mine fairly dry.  Put the noodles in the pot and hit the switch.

Step 3 - Let it sit for a while.  This water isn't exactly boiling, so it may take longer than normal to cook. Use this time to check out your view, see what channels you get on the TV, or search the room for the sewing kit.

Step 4 - Enjoy!

And there you have it, my answer to the economic downturn :)

One package of ramen: $0.49
Per diem for dinner: ~$15.00
Savings: ~$14.51
Gaming the system?: Priceless.

13 October 2009

We'll miss our chatterbox

Around the same time that I got my cat, my mom found a stray cat at the preschool at which she taught.  For a few weeks, he lived with Lilly and me in my bedroom and I called him Phoenix. Then, he went to live with a family from the school, but it turned out that one of them was allergic so he came back to my parents' house.  Lilly and I had already left for college by then, so he lived with my parents.  He went through a string of names (none of which I can remember right now) before my parents settled on Jonathon.  I believe that he was named for a child in my mom's class, because child-Jonathon and cat-Jonathon shared one very marked (and sometimes annoying) trait -- They were loud.  I never met child-Jonathon, but I can attest to cat-Jonathon's constant mewing.  He constantly meowed -- to be petted, to be the center of attention, just to hear his voice?  I never quite figured out why.  My dad would say to him, "Jonathon, no one likes a chatterbox."  

Jonathon recently suffered severe kidney failure, for no apparent cause, and my parents had to have him put to sleep.  He was a sweet cat and a good cat, even if he was a loud cat.  I'm afraid their house is going to be a lot quieter from now on.

Tomato Plant update

Well, I think I'm officially calling the great tomato plant experiment ended.  You can see the two closest things I got to a tomato below.  One is a semi-decent size, about the size of a large grape.  You may notice that it is pointed the wrong way; this is because the plant split during a recent storm and, thinking it was going to die because of the break, I didn't re-tether it right away.  When I realized it wasn't, in fact, dead, I did retether it, but the tomato apparently isn't heavy enough to droop down.  It still looks like it's growing a bit, so I guess I've got some foolhardy hope for a tomato.

The other plant has three "tomatoes".  The largest is most clearly visible in the photo below, and the other two are to the sides of it.  They are each about the size of a pinhead, though I'm sure they'd be delicious if I had a tiny little frying pan to fry them up in.  A veritable feast fit for an ant!

Oh well, c'est la vie.  I have a book about growing miniature vegetables in your house, and I may try to grow an indoor tomato plant to have something during the winter (can you imagine? fresh tomatoes in the winter! the stuff dreams are made of).  Has anyone tried that? Or tried growing any indoor vegetables with a sun lamp?  I'm open to any suggestions, anecdotes, or tales of caution you may have!

My basil is still trying to grow (I've completely harvested it several times, thinking it would die as a result, but new leaves always sprout out).  I plan to bring that inside with a sunlamp as soon as it gets too cold outside.  I can't pass up the chance for fresh pesto in the winter, and I know Julia is expecting some when she finally comes to visit ...

12 October 2009

Cookbook Challenge, Take 1!

Since no one had any suggestions for my cookbook challenge, I just picked two recipes from Vive le Vegan to try: Pecan Fried Wild Rice and Sunflower-Lentil Pie.  My main focus here is on the Sunflower-Lentil Pie.  I've been thinking about lentil loaf a lot lately; I made a pretty good one once, but of course didn't write anything down about it.  So everytime I want to make a lentil loaf I think, "well it probably won't be as good as that one, so what's the point?" ... heh.  Sunflower-lentil pie seemed promising and I really liked the suggestion to make a sandwich with the leftovers, so I picked up the couple of ingredients I didn't have in my pantry and got to cooking.

Here are the ingredients for Sunflower-lentil pie (I'm stealing this photo idea from another blog because I really like it, though I'll have to keep working on my presentation).  The pie was not too long to prepare and popped in the oven.  I had a bit of drama in getting the pie ready to bake, but that was totally the fault of my kitchen wares, and a story for a different day (after I put a call in to a certain warranty department).  In the meantime, I made the Pecan Fried Wild Rice and garlicky roasted brussel sprouts a la Vegan with a Vengeance.  This is my absolute favorite way to eat brussel sprouts, which I love anyway!  Here's the full meal; I know the photo isn't great, but I honestly get no sunlight all day long, so it's pretty difficult to get a decent shot at nighttime.  You can see a nice big slice of pie, a pile of fried rice, and a pile of brussel sprouts.

I thought the pie was delicious.  The rice was decent, though a little gummy.  That may be my fault for overcooking the rice pre-frying; I'm not the most adept at cooking wild rice mixtures.  The brussel sprouts were delicious as always!  They seriously cannot be beat.  Even if you think you hate brussel sprouts, you should buy a few fresh ones and try this out.  You won't be disappointed.

So, my first cookbook challenge was, in my mind, a success!  Yay!  Here's a list for the new one, and I hope to get a few suggestions this time.  Of course, I won't let it stop me if I don't.

Let's try out some Isa Chandra Moskowitz books:

Leave your suggestions in the comments: your favorite recipes, recipes that have never disappointed, or just ones that you want someone else to try out first ;)

11 October 2009

Getting to know your friendly neighborhood nuclear scientist.

This survey has been floating around the vegan blogosphere since I became vegan and started reading vegan blogs (over 2 1/2 years ago), so I figure it just be a mandatory part of trying to enter the vegan blogging world. 

Favorite non-dairy milk? 

I had black bean milk in Korea a few summers ago. It is my favorite. I've been scouring the local stores (both health stores and asian markets) for it in the US, but to no avail. I've been considering getting a soymilk maker to try to make my own at home because it is that good. If anyone has any comments, recommendations, or ideas about using soymilk makers to make not-soymilk (or what kind of maker to get) I will greatly appreciate it!

What are the top 3 dishes/recipes you are planning to cook?
I am planning to make some apple pies, possibly some seitan pot pies while I'm making crust, and probably some black bean soup later this week.

Topping of choice for popcorn?
I'm pretty boring. I like air popped with salt.

I do have a kind of funny story about popcorn, though. My friend's mom has such an aversion to the smell of popcorn that she won't let anyone cook it in the house, so when she goes out of town my friend's dad carries the microwave out to the front porch and pops it to put in one of those big popcorn tins to eat all the time. I think it's a really sweet thing that he respects her enough to go to all that trouble :)

Most disastrous recipe/meal failure?
Oh, man. It is hard to pick just one. I made some pretty atrocious ice cream this summer. I still have no idea what happened to it, but man was it awful.

Favorite pickled item?
Probably kimchi, although I also really enjoy a dill pickle. I'm lucky enough to have several friends who don't care for them as much, so I get lots of spears when we go out for sandwiches.

How do you organize your recipes?
Honestly, pretty much not at all. I have shelves and shelves of cookbooks, and I have a 3" binder with recipes I've printed or torn out of magazines. Other than that ... it's a free-for-all.

Compost, trash, or garbage disposal?
I really overuse my garbage disposal. I believe that this little mechanism under my sink can devour anything, and I've tried it all. When I have a house, or even just a larger apartment with space for it, I plan to compost and make a little garden.

If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 foods...what would they be (don't worry about how you'll cook them)?
Quinoa, chili peppers, and tofu

Fondest food memory from your childhood?
I don't have a ton of memories, but one time the Schwan's man was being a little too aggressive in trying to sell my mom some frozen goods from his truck and our dog, Taj, jumped out of the door and bit him. I'm pretty sure we never saw a Schwan's man again. I don't know if I was even there for this, but I've heard the story enough that I have a very clear picture of it in my mind.

Favorite vegan ice cream?
It's quite hard to say. Probably vanilla coconut milk ice cream (with lots of berries on it).

Most loved kitchen appliance?
Oh, asking the tough questions! It's a toss up between my standing mixer and my blender.

Spice/herb you would die without?

Cookbook you have owned for the longest time?
My mom gave me her old copy of the Forget About Meat Cookbook when I moved in to my own apartment (in 2002).

Favorite flavor of jam/jelly?

Favorite vegan recipe to serve to an omni friend?
Fat Free Vegan's Lasagna

Seitan, tofu, or tempeh?
Tofu, definitely.

Favorite meal to cook (or time of day to cook)?
I really like to cook breakfast foods, like waffles or biscuits or tofu scramble.

What is sitting on top of your refrigerator?
Banana tree, empty tea pitchers, and about a half dozen kinds of potato chips.

Name 3 items in your freezer without looking.
bags of nuts, veggie burgers, and leftover waffles

What's on your grocery list?
Hmmm ... cinnamon, brown sugar, cat food, toothpaste

Favorite grocery store?
The Three Rivers Market, which is a food co-op here in Knoxville.

Name a recipe you'd love to veganize, but haven't yet.
My family recipe for thanksgiving dressing.

Food blog you read the most (besides Isa's because I know you check it everyday). Or maybe the top 3?
My google reader has about 300 in it, though some of those are now defunct. I really like Alabaster Mom (which occasionally says something about weight watchers, so I'll call it a food blog), Fat Free Vegan, and Chocolate Covered Katie.

Favorite vegan candy/chocolate?
probably the skittles in an orange package. Some other skittles are gelatin-free now, too. I love it!

25. Most extravagant food item purchased lately?
Last night I bought a frozen pizza. I guess it was extravagant because it was kind of expensive and not very good ... I probably won't be going that route ever again.

Ingredients you are scared to work with?
There is something that I *always* mess up, but I can't think of what it is for the life of me ... Anyway, I keep trying. I figure that if Rachel Ray can cook, so can I!

If you made it all the way to the end of this, then congratulations on your fortitude! I'll be back tomorrow with something that is (hopefully) more interesting.

09 October 2009

Hillbilly Hummus (and some Humble Pie)

So, it's just a week in and I've already missed a day of MoFo. I'm so sorry for my bad MoFoing skillz, but I've been caught up with work and blah blah blah. I will do my best to post something every day from now on!

So, for tonight I bring you a recipe coming straight from the hills of Tennessee: Hillbilly Hummus.  My brother is going to a local college on the weekends to get a teaching degree, and he got this recipe from "the vegan guy" in his class.  Vegan Guy apparently has no name, but will be referred to as such in all subsequent posts (sadly, I doubt I'll ever meet said Vegan Guy since the classes are in Maryville, not Knoxville).  Here is his recipe for Hillbilly Hummus, which uses black eyed peas and peanut butter instead of garbanzos and tahini. It may sound weird, but it is really delicious!  And if tahini costs as much everywhere as it does here, then the peanut butter substitution will be easy on your pocketbook.  So, without further adieu (with my brother's directions intact):

Hillbilly Hummus:

2 cups (1 can) black eyed peas - drained, but save the juice
2 tbsp Natural Peanut butter (or more to taste)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp sage
2 cloves garlic
salt, pepper, cayenne pepper to taste.

Thats all he put, but I imagine you just grind the hell out of all that stuff as the last step.  Use that black eyed pea juice you saved to fix the consistency if you need to.  I bet you could have figured it out, but I'll put it in here just in case.

07 October 2009

A Miracle Soup -- It'll Cure What Ails Ya.

I mentioned last week that I was in San Diego for a conference.  San Diego was amazing, the conference was interesting, and the networking was fruitful (really, that's the only reason we have these things, right?). Unfortunately, the entire trip was tarnished by a wholly unpleasant trip home.  First of all, we were flying from San Diego, CA to Knoxville, TN.  For whatever reason, Delta decided to route this trip through Minneapolis, MN.  For those who don't know, this is not the most direct way to get from San Diego to Knoxville ...

Of course, we got stuck in Minneapolis. Over night. I won't get into the tit-for-tat with Delta about why we were stranded or how we could have gotten home (nearly) on time by going to Atlanta and then to Knoxville on different flights ... Trust me, Delta will hear all about all of it in a strongly worded letter as soon as I have time to write it.  The one silver lining of this unexpected stay in the North is our hotel's proximity to the Mall of America.  Of course, I didn't pass up this opportunity to check it out, because when will I ever be in Minneapolis again?  It was an amazing shrine to consumerism.  Seriously, if you think that any shopping center in your town is big, you ain't seen nothin'!   There is a Lego store with lots of (very, very large) Lego sculptures; there is a Nickelodeon amusement park in the middle with roller coasters and other rides; there is an underground aquarium; and then you get to the retail space. You could easily get lost in here for days.  We were there for two hours and hardly scratched the surface.

So, the stay in Minneapolis wasn't a total wash.  However, the plane ride back to Knoxville found me sitting next to a very sniffly man for two hours.  He was kind enough to share his cold germs with me, and I've been a little under the weather since then.  Last night, in a fit of sickly soup craving, I made the Lentil Soup with Ribbons of Kale from Robin Robertson's Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker.  The recipe is available here, so I'll copy it to the end of this post with my changes noted.  I have to say, this soup will cure whatever sniffly affliction you may have!  Because I didn't plan ahead, I made it on the stove top instead of in a slow cooker, loosely following the directions here.  I let it simmer (at a very fast simmer ... what is between a simmer and a boil?) for about an hour and a half.  The only change I made to the recipe was the addition of ground cumin, which I think makes everything better.  We ate it with some crusty bread, and it was fantastic.  I had some left overs for lunch today, and it was even better than last night.  I think the slow cooking would give the flavors a better chance to meld together, if you can plan ahead 8 hours.  If not, then make it on the stove top!  It certainly won't disappoint anyone.

Lentil Soup with Ribbons of Kale
Robertson warns that cooking the kale directly in the soup can leave a bitter flavor, so you probably want to dirty up the extra pot in step 2.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/4 cups dried brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
  • 6 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp ground cumin, or to taste
  • 4 or 5 large kale leaves, tough stems removed

1. Heat the oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Cover and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the lentils, stock, and tamari. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and cumin.

2. Meanwhile, slice kale into thin strips and cook in a pot of boiling salted water about 5 minutes or until tender.  Drain kale and hit it with a bit of cold water to keep it from overcooking.  Add to soup just before serving.

06 October 2009

The fairest at the fair

A few weekends ago, my boyfriend and I went to the Tennessee Valley Fair.  I don't remember ever going to a fair before (although my mom claims that we did; I guess I just don't remember).  I had it built up pretty high in my mind when we finally decided to go ... and it was every bit as great as I thought it'd be!

And just to make this post semi-food related, to qualify for vegan mofo, I would like to comment on the food available at the fair.  Below you can see one of the adverts on a food booth.  The picture does not even do justice to how disgusting this slice of pizza looked.  Even in the pictures, things appeared to ooze grease.  I don't know how anyone found this stuff appetizing, but I would guess that a good 75% of people we passed had some sort of fried concoction in hand for consuming.  When will the TN Valley Fair get some healthful concession options? My guess is never.

05 October 2009

A missed milestone

Yep, you can see that my Blendtec blender has crossed the 200th use.  I know some people use their blenders everyday, but I'm really just not one of those people.  I got this for Christmas in 2007, and I just crossed the 200 mark.  I wish I had noticed that it was coming so that I could have made something appropriate to commemorate the occasion.  It was probably passed in a recent hummus making spree that resulted in some extremely spicy hummus or making a breakfast smoothie.  I just wanted to say that I LOVE my Blendtec blender.  I want to try to use it more, because it definitely deserves the use.  For some reason I just never think of using it.  Of course, I could use it to blend some interesting things like golf clubs, iPhones, video cameras (and then trying to return said video camera), but I think I'll stick with edible concoctions.  I'd say that probably 80% of the time I use it, I'm either making hummus or a smoothie.  I occasionally dabble in a soup or sauce, but that's about as crazy as it gets.  I know there must be other, better things to do with it, but I honestly don't know what.  So my question to anyone out there in the ether is, what's your favorite thing to make that uses a blender?

(If you want to see more blending adventures, check them all out at www.willitblend.com, including a few edible choices)

02 October 2009

Feeding the Cookbook Habit

Hi, my name is Jamie and I'm a cookbook addict (hi, Jamie).  There, I've said it.  And admitting I have a problem is the first step to recovery, right?  Well, I have a problem with cookbooks.  I absolutely LOVE them.  I have well over a hundred at last count (which was admittedly a while ago ...  I'm a little afraid to recount).  I see a cookbook that looks tasty or interesting; I buy it; I read it; I put it on the shelf.  This is my real dilemma.  I buy a lot of cookbooks that I never use.  For shame!  So I'm going to start a new feature of this blog that will hopefully get me cooking from my vast collection.  Each week (at least during Vegan MoFo and maybe longer, if it works well), I'm going to post a few cookbooks that I have bought and not used much.  What I need from you is a suggestion of a recipe from one of the candidate books that I *have* to try.  Tell me your favorite recipe; the easiest, quickest recipe; the one that surprised you the most; or just one that you have wanted to try but haven't gotten around to yet.  Every week, I'll cook one of the recipe suggestions and report back to you (and make a new list of cookbooks to choose from).

To start off, I'm going to put up a list of books that I do use fairly often, but would like to expand my use of: the Dreena Burton series :) I have all three of her cookbooks:  The Everyday VeganVive le Vegan, and Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan.  I love these books because they are easy to use, they don't include a lot of crazy ingredients, and they seem to be fairly foolproof.  I've made several of the hummus recipes from ED&BV (which has an entire chapter devoted to hummus!) and the delicious homestyle chocolate chip cookies (which everyone loves, including me) a lot.  I've made a few of the other recipes, though not as much.  So, tell me, what's your favorite Dreena recipe?

PS - I'm currently posting this from Minneapolis, where I was lucky enough to get stranded tonight, but I will try to start a cookbook list for the sidebar when I get home.  It is seriously embarrassing.

Some basic vegan anatomy

Unfortunately, I'm going to be traveling almost all of today, so I won't have time for much of a post.  I thought that, in my MoFo stead, I'd post this video by Dan Piraro about why people may not be physically pre-disposed to eating meat, as many meat eaters will claim.  The animation is funny and the information is interesting, so I suggest you give it a watch if you haven't already.

This is a message that really speaks to me. When people say "Look, I have these sharp teeth for eating meat", I have to wonder if they really think that their teeth look like cat teeth, which are clearly meant for eating meat ...

01 October 2009

Hello, MoFo

Well, folks, it's Vegan MoFo time, which means that I will be trying my darnedest to blog about something at least remotely vegan every day this month.  I'm not positive where to start, so I think I'll talk about my food adventures so far during my current trip to San Diego, CA.

I'm from Knoxville, TN. You would probably think, "Tennessee isn't very vegan" and you'd be right. So when I found out that a conference (the PHM society conference) would bring me to San Diego, I was stoked thinking, "California is the place I ought to be!" but I've honestly been a little disappointed.

The meals that were provided by the conference have been somewhere between satisfactory and superb (more on those in a minute) because I alerted them beforehand to my special dietary needs.  This is my number one suggestion to people traveling for business with dietary restrictions (be it vegan, lactose intolerant, or whatever) -- Tell them early and remind them often!  People want you to enjoy your trip and get as much as you can out of it.  They know that you won't absorb as much if you are spending your time worried about where you can get a morsel of nutrition, so tell them what you need.  More often than not, they will be accommodating.

My experience with the conference food here has been excellent. The meals they've provided me have been vegan, interesting, and delicious.  No watery salads or giant mounds of spaghetti.  At the Doctoral Consortium luncheon, I had a lovely pasta with vegetables.  It had a rainbow of vegetables and looked much tastier than the chicken pasta everyone else had to suffer.  The conference banquet offered a delicious spinach and strawberry salad, a plate of vegetables which I can't necessarily identify as a dish, but enjoyed nonetheless, and dessert (yes, vegan dessert!) of raspberry and lemon sorbet.  Did I mention the bar was open and plentiful? :)

Sadly, my experience with restaurants in the area has not been so positive.  For the most part, I've been able to find something to eat, but one day we went to a restaurant called George's at the Cove: lovely view, no vegan food.  They deceptively have some sandwiches on the menu that appear they could be made vegan by excluding the cheese, but I found out that they do not make these ($11!) sandwiches fresh, so no modifications are allowed.  Okay, Panera makes fresh sandwiches. SUBWAY makes fresh sandwiches .... so you might expect that this place could muster the strength to make a fresh sandwich, but you'd be wrong.  So, the vegan option here is a tiny green salad which costs $8.  Maybe these prices aren't such a big deal to others, but I'm a grad student!  I need to appreciate the value of a dollar.

I did go to a very tasty vegan-friendly mexican restaurant called Pokez, which I highly recommend if you are ever in the area.  They oversell the vegan ranchera sauce a little, but the food was great.  I had a tofu, potato, and mushroom burrito.  It was delicious and HUGE for only $5. I highly recommend it.

Overall, my experience in San Diego has been hit and miss on vegan food.  I definitely love the city (you can't beat this weather!), but next time I'm here I'll have to do more research on local, vegan-friendly restaurants.