Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pita Sandwich!

I'm not usually big on sandwiches, but since I discovered these fabulous ready-to-go tofu and TVP spreads at the health food stores I've become a bit of a junkie for the sammies.

This one is Vegan Sundried Tomato Chicken Salad in a Whole Wheat pita stuffed to the gills with assorted lettuces and baby Roma tomatoes. Half a sliced apple and a strawberry round it out to a nice little meal. It's a sandwich and a salad all in one!

Finding Vegan bread is a bit of a bother sometimes - why do so many bread companies put milk in their bread? This seems so odd to me, though I never gave it a thought before, now that I know it's in there I'm really stumped. But I found these lovely Baker's Whole Wheat pitas and they are simply yum-a-licious. They also hold together better than the more commonly found pitas made by the bigger companies. So there "sahara".

I just love things that are quick to throw together, easy on the eye, and filling while being simply deeee-lish. Plus you really can't beat all those colors. Nothing nicer than colorful eats - all those antioxidants!!! MMM-MMM-MMMM!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Fast Falafel Salad

Falafel is one of the best things you can make out of chickpeas. Hummus is a close second. Trouble with making falafel at home, for me, is the frying. I just don't enjoy frying so much. So I haven't made it at home in decades.

The other day I spotted frozen falafel in the health food store and decided to give 'em a shot.

They are pre-cooked and can be eaten after defrosting, or you can heat them up for 5 minutes in a toaster oven. I did the latter. While they were heating, I mixed together a bit of tahini, some water and lemon juice with a shake of garlic/spice powder to make a dressing. Threw some salad on a plate with a few sliced baby roma tomatoes, tore up half an Ezekiel 4:9 burger bun and voila! Ten minute falafel salad.

Fast, easy and yummy. What else do you need?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dinner at Gobo

Friday night I had dinner at Gobo with my friend Lori.
She is not a vegan but is extremely vegan friendly, and thus very willing to try new and tasty vegan treats. She's also very, very funny. As you can see, she had me cracking up.Because we both like to toss back a few shots of the hard stuff at Gobo we started out strong... 2 oz. shots of wheat grass, and keep 'em coming barkeep! Yeah. Well, a shot is a shot, right? And this little cup of liquid lawn is yummy and good for you!
Along with the wheat grass is the fabulous Gobo bread: cranberry on the left, 7 grain on the right. The bread is served with an amazing sweet potato spread (there are raisins in it!) that would make even a butter lover swoon.

We split an order of scallion pancakes with homemade mango salsa as an appetizer because... c'mon. You know why. Because they are delectable! That gorgeous mango salsa on top is a perfect complement of sweet and sharp to the slices of potato scallion heaven beneath it.

Lori ordered the sesame protein braised in sweet & sour sauce. I tasted one of the crispy little apple balls in the sauce and next time I go, I'm ordering this dish!

I had the natural seitan medallion in sizzling spicy citrus sauce (try saying that five times fast!)

Eating at Gobo has very quickly become an addiction for me - I can't get enough of their seitan nor their amazingly delicious coffee. Yes, the coffee.

It's an organic Brazilian coffee made in a French press and I swear it is the best coffee I have had any where. And trust me, I love my coffee. They also have the most amazing desserts, though we were both too full this time to have any. I do recommend both the multi-layered chocolate cake dusted with green tea and the crazy delicious apple & pear crisp served with soy vanilla ice cream. I wish I had photos to show you, but when I've had these desserts in the past I haven't had my camera with me! Silly Joy!

The meals here are so filling that a take-home bag is usually necessary and this time was no exception. I was happy to have left-overs of this seitan dish and I gussied it up by steaming some fresh kale and throwing the seitan and veggies over it. Seitan and kale? A marriage made in heaven!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lemon Cut-Out Cookies

I love to make cookies, oddly enough they are not something I have made since becoming Vegan. I wanted to make something to send to my friend who sent this little dough boy, and cupcakes, which while awesome might not do so well in the mail. So I opted to try cookies because they do travel well.

I used the recipe for Lemon Cut-Out cookies from Vegan With A Vengeance. Even though rolled cookies are not my strong suit, these sounded good and I thought they would be pretty.

They are, aren't they?
Lemony and sweet, but not too sweet. This is also a nice simple cookie that goes well with, say a nice cup of espresso or tea. Just a nice cookie. And it travels well.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

The cupcake of the day is Chocolate Chip!
nekkid chocolate-chip cuppers!

I used the VCTOTW recipe for Golden Vanilla Cupcakes then threw in about a 1/2 cup of mini-chocolate chips at the end.

This was my first go 'round with my new disposable pastry bag - I was a little nervous, but had the friendly totem and new blog mascot of this little poppin' fresh fellow to hold my hand (metaphorically people, this is not Chucky or Trilogy of Terror!) He was a gift from a wonderful friend who wanted to be in the kitchen with me, so now he is! I'm not normally that sappy, but I'm making an exception here because I love the gesture, so sweet.

Here's my first shot at pastry-bag cupcake decoratin'. Not too bad for a first timer. I'm just sayin'. This frosting is the Chocolate Buttercream from (you can guess) VCTOTW!!!

I had these vegan sprinkles I wanted to use and I think they are just the right finishing touch.

I cut one open to show off the hidden surprise of little chocolate chips inside.

I have to say this is my favorite cupcake so far. I'm not normally a big frosting fan, but this stuff? I could eat this without the cupcake... and there are left-overs so....

Friday, August 10, 2007

Chocolate & Vanilla Marble Cupcakes

Pretty. Yummy. And a bit of dexterity required. These are from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. As if there was any doubt.

On the left you see the chocolate batter. On the right is the vanilla.
Pouring them equally into the liners is a messy affair (I cleaned up the tin before taking the photo!)
Swirling is the next part of the process. I found that while these look pretty darned 'swirly' when you open up the cupper it is not quite as marbleized as it looks on the outside. So if you make these, my advice is to marbleize more than you think you need to - so they look as pretty on the inside as they do on the outside.
After they come out of the oven they are a little more golden and just as swirly.

I iced them with Vegan Buttercream Frosting from VCTOTW. I divided the vanilla recipe and then added a bit of cocoa to half. I wanted to recreate the swirls of the cupcakes in the icing. Unfortunately it wasn't quite the success I'd envisioned. It seems the time has come for me to get a pastry bag.

This is one of the little cakes cut open.

See what I mean about the marbelizing? It looks great on the top, but deep inside the cupcake I needed to swirl it up a bit more.

Lesson learned. Next time: Perfection!
In the meantime? They taste just fine!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Mini-Pizzas with home-made sauce

It doesn't happen often, but it happened last night. I had a pizza craving. Oh I sure did.

I wanted to make my own, because hunting down vegan pizza was simply not on my agenda, I didn't want to commit to a full-sized pizza, nor did I want to attempt making my own crust. So I fell back on an old childhood fave: English muffin pizzas!

I used whole wheat English muffins because they are denser than the 'nook and cranny' variety so they have more of a 'real' crust feel. I also made my own sauce!

I know making sauce is an art unto itself, so it's something that always intimidates me. But I was feeling bold - and I wanted the damned pizza - so I made it up as I went along.
Tomato sauce with basil
2-3 T. olive oil
1/2 large onion chopped small
2 cloves garlic minced
1 package (17 oz) Vitelli crushed tomatoes
2-3 t. dried oregano
1 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
sea salt (to taste)
2 t. agave nectar (it's really sweet so go sparingly, you just want enough "sweet" to round things out)

In a medium saucepan saute onions in olive oil. When they begin getting softer add the oregano and nutmeg and continue sauteing until almost translucent. Add garlic and cook until you start to smell the garlic - don't brown!

Add the tomatoes and basil to the onions, let it simmer for a couple of minutes, stirring from time to time. Check the taste and salt as necessary, then add a little agave nectar and taste again. You'll know when you've added enough - the acidic 'bite' of the tomato will soften and you'll taste a full-bodied 'sauce'. Then of I let it simmer for about 15 minutes, but longer would probably be even better.

This was my first vegan pizza and of course the cheese was going to be the biggie. I scoured the health food store and decided to try Vegan Gourmet's mozzarella. I was really happy to see that Urban Vegan recommends this as one of her favorites, so I knew I'd chosen well! (Talk about beginner's luck!)

I lightly toasted the English muffins and shredded the cheese (which does shred very easily). Then I laid out the muffins and layered on some sauce. Because the sauce is thick with onions it actually looks more like large bruschetta, but once the cheese went on it became pizza!
I did not find that the cheese melted very much, but that may have been because I made these in a toaster oven; but it browned a wee bit around the edges and it was moist and yummy, so the meltiness was not an issue for me.

I reserved a few smaller basil leaves to use as a fresh topping - tastes fantastic and looks awfully pretty.
I didn't clock this, but I'd put it at about 30-40 minutes and that's, of course, because of the sauce. If you have sauce on hand already, this wouldn't take more than 10 minutes to throw together.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Frozen or Fresh: YOU decide!

Cooking from scratch has become something I love. While I've always loved baking from scratch, making 'food' rather than desserts has always been more challenging for me. Though I do admit that was primarily due to the fact that I never quite knew what to do with meat products. They scared me. Being vegan has wiped away all those fears.

However this is not to say I'm above the use of conveniently pre-packaged, heat and serve foods. In fact frozen vegetables are easily my favorite things. If you have some frozen veggies on hand you can do amazing things. Best part: they don't go bad waiting for you to decide what to do with them!

The other day I found a new frozen dish that was waving, jumping up and down in a VERY insistent manner and screaming my name from the frozen food section at my favorite food Mecca, Trader Joe's.

Though I enjoy throwing together my own creations, they seem to all be variations on a theme. A whole lotta stuff in one pot. So when I saw this ready to go dish, I had to try it.

There are 8 pre-made 'bird's nests' in a package for something like $2.59, and they come with a dipping sauce that is so good I want a recipe!

a look inside the box

It takes about 20 minutes in an oven - it's a thousand degrees here so I used the toaster oven for this. They come out like this.

So yummy I was in heaven. You can deep-fry them also, but they already have enough oil for me so the oven was the way to go. I had convinced myself I'd save these to use as 'impress the company' fare if anyone came over - but let's face it: these bad boys are too good to leave frozen.

My one regret is having only bought one box. Note to self: stock up!!

Friday, August 3, 2007

German Chocolate Cupcakes

I haven't made anything new and exciting in the past few weeks. As evidenced by my lack of posts on this blog. My trip to Mexico really put my experiments in cooking on hold. Now I am happy to report I'm back!

Thursday is cupcake makin' day here and though the last few weeks I've been 'off', last night the cupcake batter was flowing again and world balance was thus restored. This time it's German Chocolate Cupcakes from, where else, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

This flavor was a special request (as were the Carrot Cake Cuppers I made a while back). I'm happy to finally be able to fulfill that request. Even though New York is in the midst of a heat wave, last night I was slaving over the oven. Because, for chocolate, I will suffer.

The recipes I used from VCTOTW are Your Basic Chocolate Cupcake (page 37) and Coconut Pecan Fudge Frosting (page 147). These cuppers are not necessarily a 'real' German Chocolate Cake but they evoke the flavors and they are DELISH! I keep wondering when I'm going to find a recipe in VCTOTW that I don't like! So far, I love every single recipe I've tried. Oh yes, the cupcakes are very, very persuasive in their plot to take over!!

The cupcakes themselves were easy-peasy - primarily because of the simply, straightforward and helpful directions that are the hallmark of VCTOTW. The frosting, however, was a new adventure for me. I haven't tried a cooked frosting so I was feeling the stress of hard work to come. But no, not so much.

Making cooked frosting is a lot less difficult than I'd led myself to believe. I was actually chatting away on the phone while I made this, which might not be the wisest way to try a new recipe or technique. Especially if you are math-challenged like me. In fact I did screw up the recipe a teeny bit and instead of the rice milk I measured out coconut milk to make the arrowroot slurry. Oops! Instead of kicking myself I just omitted the rice milk altogether and went full-on coconut milk. The results were yum-yum-yummy, so I figure it wasn't such a bad mistake after all.

I decorated these little yummies with a square of Lindt 85% cocoa (for that illusion of "I'm eating this for my health") that I picked up at the Duty-Free Shop as I left Mexico. I think it's a nice bow farewell to my time off and a delicious way to enter back into the amazing tastes of Vegan cooking.