last day of VeganMoFo!

Happy Halloween! Though this picture is from a couple years ago, I'm wearing the same thing today:

The husband and I just got back from our honeymoon in New Orleans, and while we had an awesome time, and ate a lot of awesome food, coming home was really nice. (Even though our heat is broken...) Especially nice was being able to have a big healthy meal; while all our restaurant meals were great-tasting, I never feel quite as healthy eating out as eating at home. So when we got back from the airport, I made us a big greens-and-tofu dinner. I was too hungry/distracted to take pictures, but this is another home-from-travel meal I made a while ago: a big salad with chickpea salad on top.
It feels good to sort of detox with greens after decadent eating for so long. But expect a New Orleans food post soon!

Happy Halloween, and happy last day of VeganMoFo! It's been a really busy month, but I'm glad I was able to participate. I am sorry I couldn't read more blogs, though--I guess I'll have plenty to catch up on in the (hopefully) slower month of November.


Sunday Brunch: pancakes and crepes

My "blog photos" folder is going to be so empty after this month! Which is a good thing, since I tend to stockpile pictures for too long. Since there's only one day left after today, this is probably the last "epic post," and it's a delicious one.
Pancakes! I've gotten over my hatred of making pancakes; I'm much more patient now and don't burn them. Above, pancakes with blueberry sauce and cashew creme. Below, pancakes (I think they were lemon-flavored?) with a raspberry sauce.
And these are red, white, and blueberry pancakes!
Topped with soyatoo whipped topping.

This is the coconut pancake recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance topped with simmered peaches and hazelnuts.
You may have noticed a trend by now: I like to have fruit with pancakes. Unless they're SAVORY pancakes!
These were mirepoix pancakes (carrots, onion, celery) topped with gravy.

And finally, a sort of pancake: crepes!
These aren't filled with anything too exciting: fruit, cashew cream, and each one has a different seasoning. (I think I went cinnamon/blueberry, nutmeg/clove, and ginger/raspberry.)

So that concludes our "Sunday Brunches" this month. What are your favorite brunch foods that I didn't mention?


Saturday Snack: popsicles

I'm writing this ahead of time, but when it actually posts, I will be on my honeymoon in New Orleans! It's gotten chilly in Boston, but New Orleans is still quite warm, so it's not entirely unseasonal to write about one of my favorite warm-weather snacks: Popsicles!
I like popsicles, but they're usually too sickly sweet for me by the end, which is why I love making them at home. I can control how sweet they get. The one above is just chocolate soymilk, and tasted just like a fudgesicle, but not quite as sweet--perfect for me! I also freeze juice and smoothies in my popsicle molds.

I did find some store-bought popsicles that are really good without being too sweet.
Smooze! They're a combination of coconut milk and fruit juices. And they're like push-pops!


pasta salad with beans? be careful

When I want to make a meal that will provide enough leftovers to have lunch for the week taken care of, I usually pasta. Basically I make a warm pasta salad for dinner, then eat it cold for lunch over the next few days. To make it a complete meal, I usually toss in a generous amount of vegetables and either beans or nuts as some sort of protein.

Since I'm obsessed with chickpeas, they are my go-to legume. Unfortunately, sometimes I do not have any chickpeas, like the time I made this pasta dish:
It's za'tar-spiced whole-wheat orzo with pinto beans, broccoli, roasted sweet potatoes, and probably onions, since I love onions. It tasted great the first night!

Buuuut as it sat in the fridge over the next few days, the beans got this weird slimy texture. They weren't going bad or anything, they were just continuing to absorb moisture from the other ingredients, and getting increasingly mushy. The taste remained the same but by the second lunch of leftovers the texture was awwwwwwful, ugh.

So! a word to the wise: if you're making a bean-and-pasta dish that will result in leftovers, go for a firm-skinned bean like chickpeas, cannellini, or kidney beans. Because maaaaaan is it gross otherwise!


a LOT of stuffed squash

For me, this has been the VeganMoFo of epic posts. I had an epic pizza post, an epic soup post, a long socca post, and each of my Sunday brunch posts have a bunch of one thing per day. I tend to stockpile pictures for future blog posts that never quite get written, and VeganMoFo is a great way to get all those pictures/posts out.
I really like squash, and one of my favorite ways to cook with it is to stuff it with other food and then roast it. Sometime's it's simple, like the above squash stuffed with greens, raisins, and pepitas. But mostly my stuffings consist of grains flavored with herbs and spices and mixed or topped with a protein like beans or nuts.
This one has chickpeas, spinach, and... some grain, it's hard to tell. I often also mix in nutritional yeast or miso to give it a cheesy flavor.

Lentils and bulgur!
Topped with Your Vegan Mom's Vegan Parmesan.

I don't remember what's in this one, but the picture is making me want artichokes.
I can see pecans and chard in there.

Lentils, peas, and spinach. Protein and greens, whoo!

Zucchini is a summer squash, so it still counts, right? I know there's quinoa in it, because I always make more filling than I have room for stuffing, so I always end up with a side serving of the filling as well.

I think that's all the stuffed squash pictures I have stockpiled...

A stuffed onion! I made a "cheesy mushroom" mixture with a nutritional-yeast-based cheese sauce and mushrooms, and had my grain on the site this time. Not squash, but still fills my obsession with stuffed vegetables


ras el hanout quinoa pilaf

I have a lot of pet peeves. I will spare you a list, but one of the ones that surprises people the most, considering that I have a food blog: I hate food trends.

It's not the food that bothers me. I know that disliking trendy foods is like shooting the messenger. What really bothers me is the fuss foodies and food reviewers make about new foods, and how quickly those foods spread around stores/blogs/cookbooks as "the next big thing."

What bothers me is that food trends exoticize food and cooking, make it sound like you don't know about food or cooking if you haven't used Himalayan salt, tasted macarons, or shaped cake pops. They make cooking at home sound difficult, expensive, snobby. Cooking can be (is) simple, quick, cheap, and will still be delicious. I am a food troglodyte; I don't want trends for my food the way there are trends for fashion. My forebears did without food trends; so can I!

But like I said, it's not the food that bothers me. Fancy cupcakes, for example, were a maaaaajor food trend for a while, and I stubbornly held back, resenting the trend, until I actually ate a cupcake and was like "oh yeah, I forgot how amazing cupcakes are." Similarly, I resented seeing "fleur de sel" in ingredients lists for a year or so before I broke down and bought some--and it really does add a nice touch to main dishes. I love food, I just mind when there's fuss around it.

The whole point of this story is that a while back I heard of Ras El Hanout seasoning from a bunch of food blogs and got all obstinate and thought "ARRRRGH NOT ANOTHER FOOD TREND." I intentionally did not read many of the reviews, and after a while the trend disappeared.

But then couple months ago, my mother got some for her store, and started singing its praises, too. My own mother! But she's not an obnoxious foodie, she's my mom! I thought. Maybe this stuff is worth a try. So I "let" her give me a bottle (thanks Mom!) of Frontier's Ras El Hanout spice blend.

I'll be honest here and say this is another food I was a jerk for resenting. Ras El Hanout (which means "top of the shelf/shop") is a spice blend native to North Africa that consists of warm spices, most of which start with C: coriander, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, clove, cubeb/black pepper, nutmeg, sometimes cayenne. Every blend is a litle different, so nightshade-free people should read the labels for cayenne/chilis, but Frontier's is nightshade-free. It is very potent, and it is delicious! If you like North African and/or Middle Eastern food, this is a must-try.

Many recipes involving Ras El Hanout use it as a meat rub. You could definitely do a tofu or seitan rub out of it, but I was making quinoa for dinner a little while ago, and decided it would also be excellent in a quinoa pilaf.
Quinoa, raisins, carrots, some chopped cauliflower, and ras el hanout. And hoooooo boy is it strong! I added a teaspoon or so of it to about 1 1/2 cups of uncooked quinoa and 3 cups water, and it was allllmost too flavorful--I was glad we had a plainer side salad to eat with it. I could have halved the amount of ras el hanout and still gotten the right amount flavor. So err on the side of "subtle" when you're trying out this spice blend for the first time!

Ras el hanout would also be good mixed with other grains, sautéed with chickpeas, roasted with nuts, or used in a sauce. Obviously I didn't make my own at home, but if you're interested in trying out ras el hanout without not being committed to buying a whole jar, the ingredients are pretty common to anyone who does a lot of Indian or Middle Eastern cooking, so it'd be pretty easy to mix at home. Have you ever tried it? What did you do with it?

Are you secretly a curmudgeon about something people think you'll like? How do you feel about food trends? Are there any in particular you love or hate?


sushi and vegan mofo survey

Some quick sushi, and then onto a survey!

Sometimes making sushi at home is a casual affair, just chopping up some veggies and rolling them up (and using leftovers to make rice bowls).
OTHER times I like to go all out and make crazy rolls. This usually means I have ingredients allllll over the kitchen.
But it makes for tasty sushi!
I always go for brown rice at home.

I found this Vegan MoFo survey over at Vegan Megan's blog, and it came at just the right time; we're going on our honeymoon this week and I'm feeling overwhelmed by how many posts I have to do in advance. I could use a "nothing" post or two! It has a couple questions in common with last year's survey, but my answers have changed, so it's not repetitive, I promise!

1. Favorite non-dairy milk?
Earth Balance's unsweetened, unflavored soy milk. Organic Valley's is okay but has a vanilla-y taste that doesn't work for savory things.

2. What are the top 3 dishes/recipes you are planning to cook?
Only 3? And is this for MoFo? I won't have time to cook any of these for MoFo, but they've been on my list forever: skillet chocolate chip cookie, agave popcorn balls, and homemade inari.

3. Topping of choice for popcorn?
My Cracker Jack-ish popcorn, but if I'm with the husband, who doesn't like sweet popcorn, nutritional yeast, salt, and kelp flakes.

4. Most disastrous recipe/meal failure?
UGH I tried to veganize my mom's old creamed beef recipe, but I accidentally curdled the soymilk when I added it (at the end, mind you, after adding all the other ingredients) and it smelled and tasted like some dead rotting fish, so I had to throw out the whole recipe. I think we ate pasta that night instead, and it was a bitter meal. (Because of the earlier failure, not because the pasta itself was bitter.)

5. Favorite pickled item?
Pickled radishes! I have some radishes in my fridge right now that I want to pickle. They are so tasty.

6. How do you organize your recipes?
Um... you're looking at my organization system. I blog about them. Also, I have a "recipes" folder in my browser's bookmarks section.

7. Compost, trash, or garbage disposal?
Does it have to be "or"? I tried composting last year but it wasn't very successful (probably because we live in a small apartment?). I use most of my food scraps to make veggie broth, then throw out what needs throwing out. The garbage disposal gets its fair share of work, though.

8. 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)?
Chickpeas, sweet potatoes, garlic.

9. Fondest food memory from your childhood?
My mother is an awesome cook, so many fond childhood memories are around food. But if I had to choose one... when I was 3 or 4, my family lived with my grandmother. I never slept through the night, and my grandmother was an insomniac, so when I woke in the middle of the night, I would waddle out to the kitchen, where she would usually be sitting at the table. She'd make a bologna-cheese-mayo-lettuce sandwich on white bread, and we would sit at the counter and share it. Everything would be dark and quiet except the kitchen. It was like we had the whole world to ourselves, like we could have done anything or gone anywhere, and we were just choosing to eat a sandwich together instead.

10. Favorite vegan ice cream?
So Delicious's (coconut milk) cookies and cream! Oh wait or their chocolate peanut butter swirl. Both? Can it be both?

11. Most loved kitchen appliance?
My food processor, probably. Especially now that I have a nice new one, and not the old one I had to stick a knife into to make work. (Seriously.)

12. Spice/herb you would die without?
I probably wouldn't die without black pepper, but I'd be really sad. Also, sage. I don't use it all the time but I looooove it.

13. Cookbook you have owned for the longest time?
I think Vegan Planet, because I think that was the first cookbook I got when I got a kitchen of my own.

14. Favorite flavor of jam/jelly?
Marmalade! Though mint jelly is really cool; I just don't know enough uses for it.

15. Favorite vegan recipe to serve to an omni friend?
Hm. Probably the Guttonous Vegan's smoky sweet potato soup (I use liquid smoke in place of the paprika); it has great complex flavors, and with a side of roasted chickpeas and bread, it's a really filling meal.

16. Seitan, tofu, or tempeh?
Tofu! Whooooo! (That's my tofu cheer.)

17. Favorite meal to cook (or time of day to cook)?
Oh, definitely dinner. I like cooking in the late afternoon/early evening.

18. What is sitting on top of your refrigerator?
We store our plastic bags (for reuse) on top of the fridge.

19. Name 3 items in your freezer without looking.
Veggie broth, black beans, leftover wedding food.

20. What's on your grocery list?
We're going on our honeymoon this week/end, so I'm trying to use up everything in our fridge. Which means my grocery list is tiny this week... bread, oats, some fruit. Clif bars for the trip.

21. Favorite grocery store?
My parents' store, Cooperstown Natural Foods! It would be my favorite even if they weren't my parents, I swear.

22. Name a recipe you'd love to veganize, but haven't yet.
Ooo this question was on last year's survey, and I still haven't veganized it yet: croissants. At this point I've seen a bunch of great recipes for vegan croissants, I just haven't had the time to make them.

23. Food blog you read the most (besides Isa's because I know you check it everyday). Or maybe the top 3?
Because blogs have been blocked at work, I don't get to read as many as I'd like as consistently as I'd like... but when I get a chance to check up on blogs, I always read the food blogs on my links page. I've also been reading Bonzai Aphrodite pretty regularly.

24. Favorite vegan candy/chocolate?
At first I was going to complain about how hard this question was, but then I remembered: the peanut butter pitbull bar from Rescue chocolates. A vegan coworker from the New York office sent some to me when he found out there was another vegan in the company, and I ate them embarrassingly fast.

25. Most extravagant food item purchased lately?
Our wedding cake (from Xs to Os Vegan Bakery in Troy, NY)? I'll post pictures of it when we get them.

26. Favorite pumpkin thing to eat?
I prefer savory pumpkin recipes to sweet ones, so coconut-milk-pumpkin stew! But pumpkin muffins are pretty tasty, too.


epic soup post

I used to hate soup. It's a between food, and I don't like between foods. "Between foods" are things like soups, stews, chili, slushies, and smoothies--things that aren't exactly drink, but aren't quite solids... they frustrate me.

But I discovered a few years ago that if the between foods taste amazing, I can deal with my aversion to their texture/form. So there are smoothies, stews, and soups that I put up with for the sake of their flavor--I just have to find which ones they are. This post is dedicated to soups I have enjoyed!

Curried things are always good, like this yellow split pea soup, seasoned with curry powder (homemade, of course, to omit the cayenne):
Or the curried corn chowder from Appetite for Reduction:

Appetite for Reduction also has a good butternut squash and apple soup:
I have to admit that I could only get over my soup aversion for one bowl's worth of this one--the husband had to have the leftovers because I was souped out.

In the same vein, here's a chickpea and carrot soup that was great because it tasted like falafel. (I added shredded lettuce at the end, which is why there are unflattering green lumps. But the lettuce added to the "falafel sandwich" taste!)
We had it for dinner last night, and I had it again for lunch today... and about halfway through my lunch I was like "I CAN'T EAT SOUP ANYMORE! IT IS SO ANNOYING." So the husband gets all these soup leftovers.

You know what soup I never get tired of?
FRENCH ONION SOUP, BABY. I use a Mark Bittman recipe, and homemade veggie stock, "beefed" up with some tamari for extra umami. (Good stock is a must!) Here I topped it with bread and daiya.

I also love The Gluttonous Vegan's sweet potato soup.
I think I've written about my love for it many times here.

And one thing I discovered while preparing for this entry is that apparently I really love cream of broccoli soup.
I mean, I knew I liked it, but in the past few months I made it three times, all from different recipes, and I liked them all!
I think #1 had a cashew base, and #2 I cheated and used mimicreme, and this one below had a chickpea flour roux base?
Served with the tasty butter dip biscuits I discovered on The Kitchn.

Finally, a German-style cabbage soup that I served with seitan sausages.
This soup is one of those recipes that make me sad I don't write things down. It started as a basic boring cabbage soup recipe from the internet, and when I tasted it, it had ZERO FLAVOR, so I just started adding different things to my liking, without paying attention to what/how much I added... and it turned out to be AMAZING. But for the life of me, I cannot recall what I did to make it so good. Alas!

Do you like soup? How about other "between" foods? What are your favorites?


Sunday Brunch: scrambled tofu

I had a scrambled tofu post last year, so I think I've said almost everything I have to say about it. But it's our default brunch at our house, because it's quick, easy, filling, and variable enough that we don't get sick of it, as we change up the ingredients and spices almost every time. So here are a couple pictures of recent scrambled tofu brunches!
With a mix of garnet and white sweet potatoes.
This is what we had this morning. We were in a hurry, as we wanted to go to some open houses.

This is from a while ago. Sometimes I want to make our brunches look snappy.


Saturday Snack: french onion dip

Long before I was vegan, I used to looooooove French Onion Dip. You know the kind: it came in the Lipton packets, that you just stirred into sour cream? I loved chips, and I loved that dip.

It seems like it should be easy to make that vegan, right? Just use vegan sour cream? Lipton packet are not so natural in their ingredients list. (Also, Lipton did animal testing a while back--just to try to substantiate their claims that their tea would make you live forever or whatever stupid claims they were making. Last winter, various news sources said they stopped it last year, after PETA arranged letter-writing campaigns. I can't get behind a lot of what PETA does, but it's pretty cool that they stopped that.) There are alternative versions: Simply Organic makes a French Onion Dip Mix. But I haven't seen that around here (and I'm always a little suspicious of dextrin/maltodextrin, since it can come from potatoes, and I'm allergic to potatoes), so I make my own.

Also, because we prefer a whole-foods-based diet, I'd prefer not to buy vegan sour cream, so I make a cashew sour cream at home. For dip, I change it up from my normal sour cream by adding some oil and water to help get it to the right texture.
Using the food processor my awesome in-laws gave me for my birthday!
While that's going, I caramelize some onions:

Then I mix everything together, adding some crispy fried onions (I opt for the organic and natural ones from the co-op, but French's work, too), onion powder, garlic power, pepper, and salt.
It's better after it sits for a while so all the flavors can meld, but we usually just dig right in.

People who can't potato chips like me: try cassava chips! (Pictured above.) Especially if you can find the ridged ones. They are very similar to potato chips, and so good with this dip!



I just got back from watching The Thing with friends, only to discover it's after midnight! I MESSED UP POSTING EVERY DAY!!! noooooooooooooooooooooooo

Today's post was going to be quick anyway: mac and cheese!
Almost instant. That is, almost as easy as instant. It's whole-wheat elbows cooked with the cheezy sauce from the Veganomicon, topped with breadcrumbs. It isn't exactly like kraft, but it satisfies the comfort-food craving!

I'm cheating and back-dating this one. I wrote it at 12:45, before I went to bed, so I'm counting it as my 10/21 entry. Try and stop me! (Or don't, because you're captivated by tasty mac and cheese.)


burger time!

Did any of you ever play Burger Time?
It was an old arcade game I used to play as a kid that I recently rediscovered in an arcade. You are a chef who is trying to stack burgers, but certain ingredients--chili peppers and eggs!--keep trying to get you. It's a fun game, but, as with all those old arcade games, it is hard and unforgiving.

Unlike real burger-making! I don't find it so hard to avoid chili peppers or eggs in my burgers. We don't eat burgers that often, but I find I've been stockpiling pictures of them, so I figured I'd have one big burger post!

My favorite burger recipes come from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. While some of his recipes call for eggs, he always provides a vegan version. His recipes are simple, and very forgiving. For instance, he has a recipe for burgers made from corn, but I was out of corn, so I substituted frozen peas.
It still made adorable burgers!

He also has a recipe for autumn burgers that I thiiiink call for sweet potatoes instead of beets? But once I was out of sweet potatoes, so I made them with beets and they were tasty.
For me, it's not a burger if it's not on some sort of bread. Above you can see I used part of a baguette, but I really like making buns for the burgers!
I almost always make my own; my pizza crust recipe will give you sixish rolls, and the ones you don't use freeze well.
To get them big and puffy like the ones above (note that the first picture of rolls is slightly flatter), I toss in an extra Tbsp or so of gluten, and make sure I leave plenty of time for rising.

This batch was great; I used 1/4 chickpea flour, 1/4 whole wheat flour, and 1/2 all-purpose flour, with a couple tablespoons of gluten. That way it rose, but we got extra protein and fiber!
The texture and taste weren't any different from a wheat roll.

Anyway, back to the burgers. Mark Bittman also has a really simple nut burger recipe. In the cookbook he adds that to make a vegan version, use the miso and/or nut butter instead of the ketchup or tomato paste, and add a little extra liquid, and you don't miss the egg at all. True! I've tried that recipe with pecans for pecan burgers:
...and with walnuts for paler walnut burgers:
...and both were great. The best part is that each recipe makes at least 4 burgers, and one is quite filling, so I can freeze the leftovers.

DId you notice the roasted celeriac fries in the walnut burger picture above? I love having some sort of "fry" with my burger. I think fries and salad are the best burger accompaniments, so I try to have both every time I have a burger.
For example, this pecan burger got roasted zucchini fries, which were a little limp but quite tasty.
This portobello burger has white (Japanese) sweet potato fries, which I first coated in cornstarch to get them crispy. It worked really well!

FInally, that old processed standby: the boca burger! Because once in a while it's a great relief just to take dinner out of a box.
With sweet potato fries. At least I fried up some mushrooms and onions to go on top... that's not out of a box! Normally my toppings are just lettuce and avocado if I have it.

Do you like burgers? What toppings do you prefer? What sides do you eat with them?