Monday, October 31, 2011

Paint it Pumpkin (VeganMoFo)

Happy Halloween!  I hope everyone has had a weekend full of costuming, scary movie movie watching and festive treats…or whatever it is that makes you smile (or scream!) during this special time of year.  Tonight I plan to dress up in my homemade wind-up doll costume and hand out candies to lil treat-or-treaters.  I spent Friday night out on the town in my nifty costume with friends and on Saturday my man and I enjoyed a scary movie double feature.  During intermission we wanted a festive treat so we decided to make pumpkin cookies.  We veganized this recipe from All Recipes and omitted the frosting.  They were scrumptious (and quite easy)!  These went perfectly with the strong coffee we brewed to keep us up for our second thriller.  

Boyfriend and I have a little tradition of making waffles on weekend mornings that we spend together at his house. He has a fancy waffle maker and all.  This weekend we jazzed our waffles up a bit by adding the remainder of the canned pumpkin we used in the cookies (about ½ a cup).  They made for a great weekend breakfast.  

We use Bisquick for our waffles and just follow the recipe on the side of the box, subbing soymilk and egg replacer for the non-vegan ingredients.  

Today also marks the last day of VeganMoFo!  I’m a bit sad, however I am so, so happy that I made it through and kept up posting on an almost daily basis.  I’ve learned a lot and added quite a few new blogs to my reader as well.  It’s been a scream!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Food and Film: Chocolate Mouse a la "Rosemary's Baby" (VeganMoFo)

“Madame and monsieur shall have the dessert after all!  Mousse au chocolat! Or as Minnie calls it, chocolate mouse.” - Guy Woodhouse

Halloween is upon us!  This Food & Film post is about one of my absolute favorite movies that also just so happens to be a great one for Halloween:  Rosemary’s Baby.  Mia Farrow plays the adorable Rosemary Woodhouse.  Rosemary dreams of the perfectly restored NYC apartment and three beautiful children with her dreamboat actor husband, Guy.  Problem is, greedy Guy is much more concerned with professional success than Rosemary’s dreams.  Enter nosy, geriatric neighbors, Minnie and Roman Castevet who want to do everything they can to get Guy his big acting break.  All they want in return is to impregnate Rosemary with the devil’s child and take the baby after it’s born!  Seems to be a great deal for everyone, except poor, naïve Rosemary…and anyone else who stands in the way.

Minnie Castevet may be a thorn in Rosemary’s side, but I just love her character.  She is blunt, overly made up and completely unapologetic.  When Guy (seemingly) comes around and decides that he is ready to have a baby, he and Rosemary plan a romantic night in with a fire, fancy dinner and wine.  The only thing missing is dessert.  Enter Minnie!  Minnie prepares and delivers to Guy a chocolate mousse which she calls “Chocolate Mouse”.  It’s spiked with a lil something extra to ensure that our heroine, Rosemary, is knocked unconscious.  How neighborly. 

“As long as she ate the mouse she can’t see nor hear, now sing!”

Seeing as how basically all Rosemary eats after she gets pregnant is raw meat, I thought it would be more fun to feature a chocolate pudding in the style of Minnie Castevete.  Only this chocolate goodness won’t have any kind of “chalky under-taste”. 

There are so, so many vegan chocolate pudding and/or chocolate mousse recipes out there but the following recipe is the only one I have made or ever plan to make.  It’s just perfect!  It comes from Jo Stepaniak’s amazing cookbook Vegan Vittles (one of my faves).  It’s ridiculously easy and tastes just like the traditional chocolate pudding I enjoyed as a kid, only richer, more decadent and free of animal junk.    

The only minor change I make to this recipe is that I add a splash of non-dairy milk to the ingredients before I blend them.  I find this helps bring the consistency together and gives it a nice, glossy finish.  I use only the 1/3 cup of sugar.  I find it doesn’t need more. 

Recipe from Vegan Vittles: Second Helpings (Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Company, 2007) © Jo Stepaniak. Reprinted by permission of the author.

The World’s Best (and Easiest) Chocolate Pudding

1 package (about 12 ounces) firm silken tofu, crumbled
1/3 – 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Tiny pinch of salt (optional)

Food processor or blender

1.  Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender, and process until very smooth, creamy and thick.  Start with the smaller amount of sugar and add more to taste. 
2.  Chill thoroughly before serving.
3.  Build a fire, toast your honey and enjoy this “Chocolate Mouse” while watching Rosemary’s Baby.  You can take comfort in the fact that despite their faults, your significant other probably wouldn't exchange your first born for an acting career…I hope. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

On a Working Gal's Budget: Proper Food Storage (VeganMoFo)

Cutting your grocery bill doesn’t stop when you get home from the store.  Proper food storage is essential (vital, crucial, mandatory!) to getting the most out of all the food you spend your hard earned money on.  Knowing how best to store and organize your food will help you use it before it goes bad and stop you from throwing your groceries and green into the compost bin.  I’d like to share some things I’ve learned along the way that have stopped me from doing just that. 

It’s important to know how best to store precious produce, especially since this is what tends to spoil the fastest.  Because most of my produce comes from a biweekly CSA, I need to make sure that it lasts me the full two weeks.  The amount of goods I get is enormous and apart from a couple meals that I cook for my man each week, I am basically the only one nomming on it.  What follows are some tips on how to keep your goods good using proper storage methods. 

1.  Invest in proper fruit/vegetable storage:  For this I use Tupperware Fridgesmarts.  I am a Tupperware lady at heart.  Many people gawk at how pricey these containers are, but I have saved plenty when the amount of food I’m NOT throwing away is considered, not to mention the time and gas I save by not having to make emergency trips to the store because my fill in the blank went bad.  Check out Amazon for great deals on Tupperware.  If you are not a Tupperware fan, there are other containers specially made for storing fresh produce that you can get at your local Target or what not.  The important thing is to get your produce out of the plastic bags from the store or your own reusable mesh produce bags and into something that will help it last longer (look for containers with airtight seals that are designed to prevent produce from sitting in its own moisture).

2.  Know how and when to care for your produce:  Berries and delicate fruits/vegetables shouldn’t be washed and then stored.  For the most part, I wait to wash my produce until I am ready to use it or pack it in a lunch.  When I get a huge trough of strawberries from the farmers market I throw them straight into an airtight container and keep them in the fridge.  I then wash what I want, the day I want it.  This gives me a few more days to eat them before they go bad. 

3.  Make sure your storage is organized and everything is visible:  In my experience, food that I can’t readily see doesn’t get eaten.  For this I use as many clear containers as possible and I label everything, even in the fridge.  A roll of masking tape and a permanent marker work wonderfully and won’t leave gunk on your storage.  Each week or so when you are about to make a grocery trip, go through your fridge and clean out anything that is no longer good and stuff that you may want to freeze for later.  Fridge space is precious.

4.  Know what’s best for the fridge, the freezer and beyond: 
Fridge - Most vegetables are going in the fridge.  See some exceptions below.  Fruits that should be refrigerated are berries of all kinds and grapes.  Fruits can be refrigerated to slow down the ripening process as well.  I leave mangos out but if they have ripened and I can’t eat them that day, I’ll stick them in reefer.  This goes for kiwis as well. 
Outside your Fridge – Onions, potatoes, yams, tomatoes and eggplant should not take shelter in your fridge.  Most fruit I keep out of the fridge as well.  Store these items in a rad looking bowl and put them on your dining table or countertop.  With them in your sites, you will probably eat them faster.    
Freezer -  Bread and such like tortillas and wraps should be frozen, especially if you live alone or don’t go through bread really quickly.  My bread can start collecting mold within 2 days of being out on the counter, especially during the warm seasons.  Bread and tortillas are so easy to just defrost what you need when you need it.  Nuts and seeds should also be stored in the freezer when you bring them home.  The oils in nuts can go rancid and it is not a pleasant taste.  These guys are also rather pricey so you don’t want those valuable dollars spent in vain!  Keeping nuts and seeds in the freezer allows you to keep a wide range on hand for various recipes (see Sweet Nut Puree Fruit Topping).    

Special Note on Mushrooms:  Mushrooms go in the fridge and should not be cleaned until you are ready to use them.  They should be wiped clean, rather than placed under running water.  When you get a package home from the store, remove the plastic wrap and place the container in a brown paper bag.  I reuse the same brown paper bag over and over for this.  The brown paper bag prevents the mushrooms from getting slimy. 

Get saving!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Latest CSA Loot and a Sandwich (VeganMoFo)

This batch of goods from my CSA was populated by lettuce!  I got two heads of romaine and one head of butter lettuce so I need to get lettuce chomping!  The dragon beans are definitely the stand-out of the loot.  Suzie’s Farm seems to be very proud of these guys.  They posted a recipe for an updated version of green bean casserole using dragon beans that I am looking forward to trying with these beauties (and hopefully posting about). 

Despite getting this CSA box on Sunday, I have yet to do much cooking with the produce.  I hope to dive in later this week.  For now I will leave you with a tofu sandwich I made, using the CSA lettuce and tomatoes as condiments.  This is my favorite kind of at-home sandwich.  The tofu is pressed and then marinated overnight in a mixture of BBQ sauce, soy sauce, olive oil, chili paste and liquid smoke.  I then baked it at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, flipping it half way through the cooking time.  I loaded my baked tofu onto toasted wheat bread that I smothered with some of my homemade tartare sauce then I added a slice of vegan cheese, radish sprouts and the CSA stuff.  It really hit the spot.    

Happy Eating!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cheezy Golden Crackers care of "Have Cake Will Travel" (VeganMoFo)

With an omni Halloween party potluck to attend over the weekend, I had to keep in mind a set of criteria for what I would bring.  I wanted it to be festive, it had to be savory (just about everyone else brought sweets), it couldn’t be too “weird” (for the vegan skeptics) and it of course had to taste great.  Without time to make a special grocery trip for this, I also had to make use of ingredients I had on hand.  I opted to try Have Cake Will Travel’s Cheezy Quackers.  I had been wanting to try these for the longest time!  I even bought a set of mini cookie cutters a few months back specifically for this recipe and others that have been popping up like it. 

I am no baker, yet these crackers were rather easy to make.  The most tedious part of the process is just the cutting because you are making so many of the little guys.  The taste is quite reminiscent of the traditional gold fish crackers of yore.  It took all kinds of will power to not gobble up half the batch before I even made it to the party. 

I opted to use my plain mini oval shape cutter and attempted to fashion grooves to make the crackers look like pumpkins.  My artistic skills didn’t really translate so the crackers didn’t look much like pumpkins, but oh well.  People appreciated that I tried and that is why they are my friends.  

Pantry Staple Ingredients
Dough Ball
Before Baking
Post Bake
The crackers were a big hit at the party!  I even got a recipe request.  There is also the bragging right factor that comes from boasting that you made crackers from scratch.  I will absolutely be making this winning recipe again, perhaps I'll add some cayenne pepper for a spicy version.  Very much appreciated, Have Cake Will Travel.   

Nom nom nom

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bread (VeganMoFo)

My go-to recipe for banana bread is the version found in La Dolce Vegan but when I’m in the mood for something a bit more decadent, I make my Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bread.  This is a recipe that I adapted from a non-vegan version I found long ago in Vegetarian Times magazine.  It’s rich and delicious and just plain wonderful, although there’s really nothing plain about it.

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup natural sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ripe bananas
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
Cooking spray (or vegan butter)

Medium - large mixing bowl
Small - medium mixing bowl
Oven preheated to 350 degrees
Loaf pan

1.  Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in your mixing bowl. 
2.  In the smaller bowl, mash the two bananas and combine with peanut butter, canola oil and applesauce. 
3.  Pour the banana mixture into your dry ingredients and mix well.  Fold in the chocolate chips.
4.  Spray a standard loaf pan with non stick cooking spray or rub with vegan butter.
5.  Pour batter into loaf pan and distribute evenly. 
6.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester can be inserted in the middle of the loaf and come out clean.  Allow to cool before slicing.
7.  Enjoy with coffee or hot tea.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Zucchini "Crab" Cakes with Tartare Sauce and Rosemary Roasted Potatoes (VeganMoFo)

I got the idea to make zucchini crab cakes from fellow MoFo-er Alisha of Pink Spatulas.  It just so happened that after making Vegan Dad’s Creamy Zucchini Farfalle I had 2 zucchini left – the exact amount that Pink Spatula’s recipe calls for.  How serendipitous!  Using the Pink Spatula recipe as a base, I put my own spin on the idea.

Zucchini Cakes

2 zucchini, shredded
1 small potato, shredded
1 small rib of celery, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 1 tablespoon hot water (for the “egg”)
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon Spike seasoning (any all-purpose blend would work)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 bay leaf, crushed
Flour for dredging (I used whole wheat mixed with a bit more nut. yeast for this)

Mixing bowl
Heavy bottom skillet (or oven preheated to 400 – see Notes)

1.  Combine all ingredients except the flour in a medium to large mixing bowl. 
2.  Form into patties and lightly coat in your flour mixture.
3.  Pan fry in canola oil until golden brown on both sides and cooked throughout.

While these zucchini cakes didn’t fall apart in the pan like so many veggie burgers do, I think I’ll bake them next time.  I’m sure either way will work but for me, baking is my go-to method.  I always seem to have issues getting the inside of a patty to cook enough without burning the outside.  You’ll notice my zucchini cakes are a bit burnt (gasp!).  It didn’t affect the tastiness at all though.  When baking burgers and such I usually opt for a 375-400 degree oven and spray patties with a bit of olive oil on each side so they brown. 

I’m sure these don’t taste much like actual crab, though I wouldn’t really know.  You see, I am deathly allergic to all shell fish so even when I did eat meat I had to avoid crustaceans like the plague.  To make these fishier, you may try adding a bit of kelp powder to the mix.

Tartare Sauce:

I’ve never had real tartare sauce but I thought I’d make a version to go with these cakes since I think fried seafood is usually paired with the stuff.  It was delicious!   I wouldn’t skip it for this dish because it really was a great accompaniment to the cakes.  From what I read, traditional tartare sauce has a mayonnaise base.  Since I just made a fresh batch of sour cream, I used a sour cream base.  I doubt it made much difference.  Use whichever you have on hand.

½ cup sour cream or mayonnaise
½ tablespoon relish
1 tablespoon chopped capers
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice (more necessary if using mayonnaise instead of sour cream)

Combine all ingredients and use as a dip for your vegan crab cakes, fish sticks, calamari, etc. 

Again, I took Pink Spatula’s suggestion and enjoyed my zucchini crab cake with some roasted potatoes.  I flavored them with fresh rosemary and nutritional yeast.  These were the best roasted potatoes I have had in a long, long while.  I was worried that the amount of rosemary I used wouldn’t be enough to do anything, but the aroma filled my apartment as these baked and the rosemary flavor really shined. 

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

2 russet potatoes, cut in quarters
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
½ tablespoon nutritional yeast
Healthy sprinkle of garlic salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Oven preheated to 400 degrees
Glass baking dish
Foil to cover

1.  Take each of your potato quarters and about four deep slits in them.
2.  Place your chopped rosemary sprigs in the slits of your potatoes
3.  Drizzle with olive oil then top with garlic salt and pepper
4.  Cover with foil and bake for 20 – 30 minutes
5.  Remove foil and break your potato quarters up a bit with a fork.  Sprinkle with nutritional yeast, then bake for another 15 minutes or so, uncovered.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sweet Nut Puree Fruit Topping (VeganMoFo)

I often make this sweet nut puree when I have fresh berries on hand.  Because my farmers’ market continues to carry troughs of ripe, juicy strawberries, I have been devouring them like mad.  My latest batches of strawberries have been divine in Homemade Pop Tarts with coffee over the weekend and straight up as a snack, but my favorite way to enjoy these berries at breakfast lately has been topping them with this sweet mixture of raw nuts, sweetener and spices. 

This has been a great work breakfast for me because it requires no heating and is filling enough to get me to lunch.  I change up the kind of nuts I use for this depending on what I have in my freezer, although I almost always include cashews in the mix.  

1 ½ cups raw nuts, soaked overnight (my favorite combo is cashews, pecans and slivered almonds)
1 tablespoon brown rice syrup, or other sweetener of choice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
Water or non-dairy milk, as needed

Medium bowl with lid of some sort
Food Processor or high speed blender

1.  In a bowl, cover your nut mixture with filtered water.  Place lid or plastic wrap on bowl and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.
2.  Drain your nut mixture the next morning.  Add to a food processor or high speed blender with the rest of the ingredients.
3.  Blend until fairly smooth, adding a splash of water or milk for a thinner consistency. 
4.  Place a healthy dollop on top of fresh fruit for a satisfying breakfast or afternoon snack. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Creamy Zucchini Farfalle care of Vegan Dad (VeganMoFo)

Vegan Dad is probably the blog I frequent the most for online recipe ideas.  For me, Vegan Dad and Susan from Fat Free Vegan are like the wonderful vegan mama and papa of the blogosphere.  Their recipes have never let me down. 

I bookmarked Vegan Dad’s recipe for Creamy Zucchini Farfalle for my next batch of zucchini.  It wasn’t long before my CSA delivered and I was able to have a go at another Vegan Dad recipe.  

Minor Changes I made to Vegan Dad’s recipe:
I added one large clove of garlic to the zucchini, tofu mixture before blending.  Several people left comments on his post saying that this added more flavor.  I think next time I’ll up this to two cloves.  Meat eaters may say that everything is better with bacon, but I think everything is better with garlic.  I also added a fresh tomato to my helping.  I’m going to have major tomato withdrawals after being so spoiled by CSA and homegrown (thanks Mom!) tomatoes all summer.

This sauce is actually quite healthy since it gets its creaminess from tofu and has no added oil.  Boyfriend enjoyed this dish too, even though he claims he doesn’t care for zucchini.  Thanks for yet another winner, Vegan Dad!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cooking through my CSA: Eggplant (VeganMoFo)

 Eggplant Mushroom Wraps
Vegetables as a work of art?  I think so.
I was mesmerized by the bamboo-esque pattern of these Thai Eggplants.  Without a clear idea of how to use these beautiful eggplants, I used the fail safe method of marinating and roasting with the intention of putting them in a wrap.  I do this often with different combinations of ingredients for wraps and they make wonderful lunches.  It’s a great way to use up produce and protein you have left over from other cooking projects.  For this version I threw in some cremini mushrooms I’d been meaning to use, a half block of extra firm tofu I had leftover from another recipe and about a cup of chickpeas left over from my Big Salad earlier this week. 

I combined sliced eggplant and mushrooms with pressed, cubed tofu with one of my go-to marinades, let them hang for the 10-15 minutes it took for the oven to get up to 375 degrees and then roasted them on a foil lined baking sheet for about 20 minutes, flipping at the 10 minute mark. 

Before baking
This marinade consisted of soy sauce, liquid smoke, (vegan) Worcestershire, Asian chili paste and balsamic vinegar.  I failed to measure how much of each but I’d say I did about equal parts of everything except the soy sauce, which I used much more of.  At the halfway point of baking I took the tray out and flipped everything to make sure it all cooked evenly.  At this point I also added a healthy sprinkle of nutritional yeast.

After baking, sprinkled with nutritional yeast
Once the veg and tofu were roasted, I mixed in the cup of chickpeas I had.  A dose of the mixture went onto a wheat wrap with romaine lettuce (CSA), chopped tomato (CSA) and some lemon tahini dressing.  

My wrap, before wrapping
These made for a delectable and filling lunch
Wraps like this are great because they are so versatile.  You can do this with any combination of veggies, protein and dressing you have on hand.  I often do this with roasted peppers and onions, a schmear of hummus, spinach and chopped kalamata olives.  Roasted squash and onion could combine with seitan and a cheezy sauce in a wrap as well.  You’re only limited by your imagination!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Homemade Pop-Tarts (VeganMoFo)

Recipe adapted from Food Coma.
Once I saw the delectable homemade pop tarts that Emma over at Food Coma made I began to salivate.  When I read about how easy they were to make, using store bought puff pastry, I had to try my hand at them.  These were sinfully delicious and made a perfect partner to my morning coffee and reading. 

I decided to make a strawberry version using my latest batch of strawberries from the farmers’ market.  I simply chopped up a pint and added a spoonful of sugar to them.

Cut each of the two sheets of puff pastry that come in a package (found in the freezer aisle of the grocery store) into 6 equal squares, for a total of 12 squares.  On them, place your fruit filling, making sure not to go all the way to the edges.  

Feeling a bit wild, I added a few semi-sweet chocolate chips to the filling for the second sheet of puff pastry.

Place a puff pastry square on top of the square with the filling and press around the edges with a fork to seal them.  Place squares on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in a 375 degree oven for 16-18 minutes.   I rotated the baking sheet once during the cooking time, but you may not need to do this if your oven bakes evenly (jealous!).

While your tarts bake, make your glaze.  Taking cue from Emma again, I mixed powdered sugar with a splash of soy milk and a bit of Earth Balance.  I kept stirring in powdered sugar until I got the consistency I wanted.  

Remove tarts from the oven and allow to cool slightly.  Drizzle glaze on top and chow down as you sip your favorite morning beverage and catch up on some reading.  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

On a Working Gal's Budget: Foods that Should Never (or verrry rarely) be Bought Pre-made

People often comment to me that being vegan must be so very expensive.  There seems to be this crazy notion that a vegan lifestyle is a luxury that many regular folks cannot afford, but it just isn’t so!  I make a rather modest salary and live alone, so I have very little disposable income.  My monthly food budget is $120 which includes the cost of my CSA.  As long as I pay attention to that budget and keep track of my grocery bills along the way, I can stay within that budget and still eat fabulously. 

It’s true that certain vegan versions of food products are sold at a premium price.  Although I was a huge meat eater before going veg, I wasn’t doing my own grocery shopping or cooking, and therefore wasn’t aware of the cost of meat.  Imagine my surprise when I saw that the cost of a 20 pound turkey was about the same price (maybe even less) as the piddly Tofurky I was buying for my boyfriend and myself (which we could polish off in one sitting between the two of us)!  Of course it’s not fair and it even made me boil inside, but there are so many things that we can do to combat those high convenience food prices.  I have many more post ideas on this subject, but for today’s purposes I’m going to talk about high priced convenience foods that make no sense for us frugal vegans to but at the store.    

Salad DressingNot only is the bottled stuff expensive and laden with fat but it’s also rare that you can finish a whole bottle before it goes bad.  Why buy that nonsense when you can make your own delicious salad dressing?  You can usually throw together a quick dressing with stuff you have on hand, even.  Who doesn’t have a bottle of mustard in the reefer?  Mix that mustard with some olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper and voila, mustard vinaigrette.  For a larger batch of dressing, try Susan’sFat Free Goddess Dressing over at the Fat Free Vegan Blog.  It’s easy, tasty and versatile.  I especially love using it on falafel.

Veggie BurgersThe prepackaged frozen stuff will set you back anywhere from $4 to $7 (in my area anyway) and you only get 4 mediocre burgers.  Making your own veggie burgers is easy and can be a great way to use up stuff that’s been hanging in your fridge.  Just about every cookbook and blog has recipes for great burgers.  Homemade burgers can easily be frozen too.  Just let the burgers cool completely and separate layers with wax or parchment paper.  Hurray for homemade convenience food!

SoupCanned and boxed vegetarian soups are so overpriced when you consider that you can make a big batch of comforty goodness for about the same price as one measly can.  Like veggie burgers, homemade soups are another way to rid your refrigerator and cabinets of stuff that’s been sitting around.  Some of my go-to soups are split pea, tortilla, and tomato basil.  Jennifer over at It Ain’t Meat Babe (best blog title ever?) recently posted a great soup making idea that seems so versatile and easy.  I can’t wait to try it for myself. 

Tofurky RoastI’ll admit, I love (luuurve, loave, luff) Tofurky.  Like I mention above, my boyfriend and I (with some dedication) can polish off one of these bad boys in one sitting.  Sure a stomach ache shortly follows, but the holidays are for gluttony right?  The sad fact though is commercial Tofurky is just ridiculously overpriced for the amount you get.  Brian McCarthy posted a recipe over at Everyday Dish TV for a homemade tofurky that quite accurately mimics the beloved store bought Tofurky.  He even gives the ingenious option to wrap your homemade tofurky in puff pastry, brush with a ketchup-based solution and bake for a short while.  The puff pastry locks in the moisture of your “bird” and crisps up beautifully to simulate traditional turkey skin.  Brilliant.  His homemade tofurky is simple to make, tastes better than store bought and makes twice the amount at a fraction of the cost. 
Frozen BurritosSure there are some tasty options out there, but they will usually set you back at least $3 a pop and are quite puny in size.  Why not make your own burritos, package them and throw them  in the freezer for those hectic work weeks?  It’s as easy as making a batch of beans and rice, mixing in whatever seasonings you like (spices, hot sauce, roasted peppers, etc.) and adding optional extras like baked tofu, cheeze and/or seitan.  Wrap them up, let them cool and toss in the freezer for more homemade convenience food at a fraction of store costs. 

A few more convenience foods that are quite simple to make and store at home to save yourself some clams:  hummus, salsa, lunch meat (great recipe from VeganDad HERE), vegetable broth and pasta sauces. 

Saving money makes me smile… 

Friday, October 14, 2011

On the Town: Romi's Soft Serve Heaven (VeganMoFo)

Until very recently, creamy vegan soft serve was just something I dreamt about.  Although frozen yogurt joints abound around these parts, the best they offer to us wee vegans (if anything at all) is usually some sort of fruit sorbet.  Boring!  Imagine my delight when I discovered the little gem known as Romi’s Soft Serve Heaven just a few blocks from my apartment. 

Romi’s offers 7 varying flavors of soft serve each day and one of those seven is always vegan.  They even have vegan mix ins that are clearly labeled as such (it’s a self serve place).  I have been quite a few times and the vegan flavor is always different and interesting.  Prior to last night’s trip, flavors I’d had were peanut butter, heath bar, maple and cake batter.  Rumor has it they have a snicker flavor and I’m dying to try it! 

With 90 degree weather plaguing me and a Facebook post announcing Pumpkin Pie Vegan fro yo at Romi’s, I made it a point to get there yesterday.  It was probably the best decision I made that day. 

This was by far the best flavor I have had there.  Too often, the delicate flavor of pumpkin is hidden under a barrage of spices.  Not so at Romi’s!  It tasted like simple, sweetened pumpkin goodness. 

I spent my first year of college at Boston University and walking distance from my dorm was a wonderful hole in the wall frozen yogurt place that offered amazing, fresh flavors.  Their pumpkin was my absolute favorite.  They would blend actual puréed pumpkin into each serving.  Until last night I thought that I would never experience that again.  Enjoying this on my walk home transported me straight back to my freshmen year in Boston.

With a wink and a smile,

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Food and Film - TV Edition: Elaine's Big Salad (VeganMoFo)

“It’s a salad, only bigger, with lots of stuff in it.” – Elaine Benes

Seinfeld – Best television show of all time?  In my opinion, it just might be and of the core characters, Elaine may be my favorite.  This Food and Film post is dedicated to Elaine and her “Big Salad”.  

We are introduced to the concept of The Big Salad in the second episode of season 6, properly titled “The Big Salad”.  George and his lady of the moment are heading to Monk’s for lunch and ask Elaine to join them.  Elaine declines, but makes a special request of George…

Elaine: No, no. How about if you bring me back something?
George: Sure, all right, what do you want?
Elaine: Um, hum, I don't know.. . . A big salad?
George: What big salad? I'm going to the coffee shop.
Elaine: They have big salads.
George: I've never seen a big salad.
Elaine: They have a big salad.
George: Is that what I ask for? The BIG salad?
Elaine: It's okay, you don't…
George: No, no, Hey I'll get it. What's in the BIG salad?
Jerry: Big lettuce, big carrots, tomatoes like volleyballs.

The Big Salad is referenced later in the same season when the gang is forced to eat at rival coffee shop, Reggie’s.  The first quote of this blog entry is from that episode (“The Soup”) when Elaine attempts to explain the concept of the Big Salad to their hostile waitress.  So the parameters for a Big Salad are fairly loose.  It needs volume, it must come in a big bowl and should have “lots of stuff in it”.  I often bring salads to work for lunch and in order to sustain me until my afternoon snack, it must be Elaine-style big.  For me, that means plenty of lettuce (preferably a couple different kinds), a variety of veggies, protein of some sort and a delicious homemade dressing.

Big Salad with romaine and red leaf lettuces (CSA), yellow bell pepper (CSA), onion sprouts (CSA), tomato (CSA), chickpeas and fake bacon bits.

I wanted to top this particular Big Salad with a lemon tahini dressing in the style of the rockin’ Jyoti Bihanga dressing by the same name.  The lemon and tahini combine to give the salad a lovely parmesan cheese sort of flavor that I just adore.  Try it for yourself!

A salad to make Miss Benes proud

Lemon Tahini Dressing
Makes enough for two Big Salads

Juice of one lemon (1 ½ if your lemon is not so juicy)
1 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt (possibly more to taste)
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Jar or container with tight fitting lid

1.  Combine all ingredients in your jar and shake, shake, shake (I like to impersonate Elaine dancing while I do this)
2.  Check for flavor and adjust depending on your tastes.  If your dressing is a bit thick for your liking, add a splash of water
3.  Pour over your own Big Salad and chomp away while watching your favorite Seinfeld episodes.  Might I suggest "The Big Salad", “The Serenity Now”, “The Little Kicks”, “The Sponge”, “The Strike” and/or “The Soup Nazi”?