Friday, October 31, 2008

VeganMofo: Dia de los Muertos Means No More MoFo

Happy Halloween!! The vegan month of food has come to an end. What better way than to celebrate with Dia de los Muertos cupcakes?

Oh no! The holiday season is now upon us. Time to start making christmas presents (my goal this year is to make at least part of every present I give).
So this may be a lame way to finish mofo, but it's 3 minutes to midnight and I'm out of time!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

VeganMoFo: Better than Sex in Mamaw's Kitchen

I know the title has you all excited, but I'll address that a bit later. As a kid, trips to grandma's house were a guarantee of something mouthwatering on the dinner table. Both of my grandmothers are whizzes in the kitchen, but today I'll focus on my maternal grandmother's cooking. This post is dedicated to my mamaw; even though she isn't able to cook in her own kitchen anymore, her recipes are still bringing smiles to the faces of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren!

Mamaw's bread was a treat that all of the grandkids looked forward to each and every visit. It is especially good straight out of the oven and slathered in Earth Balance. My mom veganized and healthified mamaw's recipe by substituting Earth Balance and soymilk, replacing part of the flour with whole wheat, and adding ground flax. Last night was the first time I actually made the bread myself!
As much as I loved mamaw's bread, I equally loathed another one of her dishes that frequently ended up on our table at home; chicken spaghetti. My youthful palette was not one that could handle onions and green pepper, and I could never understand why one would eat spaghetti that way. In hopes that my palette has matured, I decided to give a veganized version of this a shot. This dish is a casserole consisting of sauteed green pepper and onions, lightlife chikn strips, homemade mushroom sauce, and stewed tomatoes; baked with whole wheat spaghetti noodles.
One thing you could always count on was that mamaw would have a mouthwatering dessert for us. From strawberry kisses to mounds bars and fudge to bunny cakes, it was always enough to send all the grandkids squealing to the table for dessert. A few years ago, my mom put together a book of recipes for mamaw to send us all as Christmas presents. And I'm not lyin', 80% of the recipes were dessert! I was a bit surprised when flipping through the pages and I came across a familiar dessert with an unfamiliar name... that's right, "better than sex". Now I know I've never heard my southern Baptist mamaw use that name for this dessert. Oh, how sheltered we were back in the 80's and early 90's. Well, I am sheltering you no more from this fabulous, easy to whip up treat.
Better than Sex - veganized from Mamaw's Kitchen

1/2 cup pecans, ground
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup Earth Balance, melted
1 recipe of your favorite chocolate pudding (I used Julie's from the Everyday Dish DVD), chilled
4 oz. Tofutti cream cheese, softened
2 T Earth Balance, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 - 4 T soymilk
1 tsp vanilla
whipped cream (optional, I used soyatoo)
dark chocolate shavings (optional)

To make the crust:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine the melted Earth Balance, ground pecans, and flour in an 8x8 pyrex dish. Mix well and press down into the pan.
3. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before filling.

To make the filling:
1. Combine cream cheese and Earth Balance in a bowl and cream together with a hand mixer until well combined.
2. Add the powdered sugar and mix until incorporated.
3. Add the vanilla and enough soymilk (start with 2 T) to reach a thick pudding consistency.

To put it all together:
1. Spread the cream cheese filling on top of the cooled crust. Smooth top.
2. Carefully spread the chocolate pudding on top. I like to drop dallops of pudding all around before spreading so there is minimal mixing between layers.
3. Since soyatoo is pretty unstable, wait until you are ready to serve the dessert to top it with whipped cream.
4. Finish with grated dark chocolate on top.

I'll leave the decision as to whether or not this dessert actually is "better than sex" up to you...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

VeganMoFo: Daring Bakers Challenge - Pizza Dough

With all the time I've been spending mofoing and traveling lately, this month's Daring Bakers challenge really snuck up on me! Before I knew it, I had to crank up my oven and get to baking (as in last night). Luckily, this month's challenge was vegan as written and allowed for plenty of variation: pizza!
But there was one twist... we had to photograph ourselves tossing the dough. Even though I knew my lack of hand-eye coordination would make this quite a challenge, I gave it a whirl. Surprisingly enough, I managed to get the dough maybe 8 inches or so away from my hands and only dropped it once. I convinced John to give it a try and he was a natural... must be all that Italian heritage in his blood! But we both found that the dough was thinning on the inside and still thick on the outside no matter how hard we tried, so I eventually resorted to the rolling pin.
I kept the toppings quite simple; a light tomato sauce, homemade basil pesto, mushrooms, green bell peppers, green onions, and a sprinkling of nutritional yeast. It was the perfect thin crust pizza.
And I still have two more pizza crusts in the freezer so I can continue to perfect my pizza tossing skills !

Monday, October 27, 2008

VeganMoFo: The Top Ten Inside 610

If you've been to Houston, you know that there are two main loops around the city.... the "beltway" on the outside and the 610 loop on the inside. Pretty much everything cool in this city occurs inside 610 (sorry to you outside the loopers!). Believe it or not, Houston is actually a pretty easy place to eat out for vegans, you just need to do your homework and have a bit of patience. I'll help you out with the homework part. Here is my top ten list of places to eat inside the 610 loop.

1. Mo Mong - A hip Montrose hang out for "Asian fusion" cuisine, Mo Mong has several vegan tofu and noodle dishes. By far my favorite is the tofu luc lac which I order pretty much every time I'm there.

2. Madras - There are a plethora of Indian restaurants in the Houston area, many with vegan options, but Madras remains my favorite for vegetarian south Indian cuisine (think: dosas!). Just be sure to tell them you don't eat dairy. Not a place to go for ambiance, but great, spicy food.

3. Field of Greens - A mostly vegetarian cafe with plenty of salads, sandwiches, and dinner plates; many of which are vegan or can be made vegan. I'm a fan of the California club and the macrobiotic platter.

4. Late Night Pie - This pizza joint used to be located in a garage until recently (how cool is that?). While waiting for our pizza I always get in a game of pac-man. They aren't stingy on the toppings and the crust is excellent.

5. Rickshaw Bambu - In the mood for veggie sushi? Rickshaw is one of my favorites because of their use of soy paper for the vegetarian roll. They also have vegetable nigiri, inari (for those who like it), sweet potato fries, and a coconut curry tofu side that always hits the spot.

6. Thai Cottage - There are numerous Thai restaurants I enjoy inside the loop, but Thai Cottage delivers delicious food at the right price. The bamboo shoots in the tofu vegetable curry make it a hit for me. They also have locations outside the loop.

7. Cafe Brasil - A popular hangout for the university crowd with a wonderful outdoor seating area. The Brasil chef salad is a star, especially when you can add grilled tofu on the nights they have it. Plus they also serve my favorite ginger brew. (please excuse the cell phone photo!)

8. Tafia - The only upscale restaurant on my list, Tafia uses local, organic ingredients in many of their dishes and always has one vegan item (tofu with portobello) on the menu. I usually opt to get a salad and a sampling of a few of their veggie side dishes like swiss chard with garlic confit or roasted carrots with dukkah spices. A great place for special occasions.

9. Pepper Tree - A 95% vegan eatery with an excellent buffet (on the weekends they include sushi). I sometimes overeat on the fried foods here, but they also have a wonderful salad bar selection. Vegan dessert too!
10. Niko Niko's - This is the place for Greek fast food in the city. They have plenty of outside seating to enjoy their falafel pita (minus the tzatziki) with a side of hummus. Or try the veggie kebob.

Anyone else who lives or has been to Houston have their favorites inside the loop? Be sure to list them in the comments! A great resource for a more complete list of Houston restaurants, both inside and outside the loop, is at the blog vegan Houston.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

VeganMoFo: Boo Y'all

Whenever I tell people that I'm from Texas, they are usually amazed because I don't have an accent. But I am always quick to point out that I do use the word "y'all"... a lot. I even use "all y'all" with an amazing frequency. So I couldn't resist these Halloween napkins.... the mummy cupcake is saying:
I also made some spiderweb cupcakes with chocolate ganache. Both were for a SOP vegan potluck picnic yesterday which, by the way, was a perfect Texas fall day.
Is everyone ready for the final week of mofo?

Friday, October 24, 2008

VeganMofo: A Crafty MoFo

I recently picked up knitting as a new hobby. All I've been knitting so far are dishcloths for xmas gifts, and I figured it would be fun to knit one for myself honoring this vegan month of food. Just in case anyone wants one for themselves, I've included the pattern as well. This dishcloth is perfect for cleaning up all the messes I make in the kitchen!

Vegan MoFo Dishcloth

Supplies: worsted weight orange cotton yarn (I used Sugar'n Cream), US size 8 needles
CO 43 sts.
Rows 1-7: Knit across
Row 8 and all wrong side rows through 48: K4, P35, K4
Row 9: Knit across
Row 11: Knit across
Row 13: K4, K2, P1, K3, P1, K2, P4, K3, P3, K4, P1, K4, P1, K3, P1, K2, K4
Row 15: K4, K2, P1, K3, P1, K2, P1, K5, P1, K2, P1, K3, P1, K1, P1,K3, P2, K2, P1, K2, K4
Row 17: K4, K2, P1, K3, P1, K2, P1, K5, P1, K6, P1, K1, P1, K3, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1, K2, K4
Row 19: K4, K2, P1, K3, P1, K2, P3, K3, P1, K1, P2, K3, P3, K3, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1, K2, K4
Row 21: K4, K3, P1, K1, P1, K3, P1, K5, P1, K2, P1, K2, P1, K3, P1, K2, P1, K2, P2, K2, K4
Row 23: K4, K3, P1, K1, P1, K3, P1, K5, P1, K2, P1, K2, P1, K3, P1, K2, P1, K2, P2, K2, K4
Row 25: K4, K4, P1, K4, P4, K3, P2, K3, P1, K3, P1, K2, P1, K3, P1, K2, K4
Row 27: Knit across
Row 29: Knit across
Row 31: K4, K5, P1, K4 P1, K3, P2, K3, P4, K3, P2, K7, K4
Row 33: K4, K5, P2, K2, P2, K2, P1, K2, P1, K2, P1, K5 P1, K2, P1, K6, K4
Row 35: K4, K5, P1, K1, P2, K1, P1, K1, P1, K4, P1, K1, P1, K4, P1, K4, P1, K5, K4
Row 37: K4, K5, P1, K4, P1, K1, P1, K4, P1, K1, P3, K2, P1, K4, P1, K5, K4
Row 39: K4, K5, P1, K4, P1, K1, P1, K4, P1, K1, P1, K4, P1, K4, P1, K5, K4
Row 41: K4, K5, P1, K4, P1, K2, P1, K2, P1, K2, P1, K5, P1, K2, P1, K6, K4
Row 43: K4, K5, P1, K4, P1, K3, P2, K3, P1, K6, P2, K7, K4
Row 45: Knit across
Row 47: Knit across
Rows 49-53 Knit across. Bind off in Knit stitch.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

VeganMofo: Adding to My Fall Produce Repertoire

It struck me while I was in the grocery store yesterday that there were three fall produce items that I have never used in my home kitchen. Since discovering new flavors is at the heart of what veganmofo is about, it was the perfect opportunity to try them out. So into my grocery basket went a spaghetti squash, a pomegranate, and a blood orange. Then I needed to figure out how to turn them into a meal....
After googling how to remove the seeds from a pomegranate, I went step by step through the simple instructions, first chopping the top off, then scoring the sides, soaking in water for ten minutes, and then gently prying out the seeds and letting them sink to the bottom of the bowl. And of course, I kept sneaking seeds into my mouth!

For a sweet and tangy fall salad, I tossed organic greens with the pomegranate seeds, blood orange slices, avocado, and a roasted shallot dressing.
The spaghetti squash was cut in half, seeds removed (and subsequently roasted and eaten), drizzled wih olive oil, and seasoned with salt and pepper which then went into the oven to roast at 375 for 45 minutes. Served with just a dab of Earth Balance.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

VeganMoFo: California Food Journal

Days 6 & 7 - San Francisco

After Santa Cruz, we headed back up to the city for one final weekend of eating and walking (pretty much what we do in San Francisco). Saturday was beautiful day and we enjoyed hazelnut flavored soy gelato and blueberry sorbet from Gelateria Naia while basking in the sun.
Our last night in the city, we had another wonderful dinner at Millennium. And for the first time, I didn't take pictures of it (unlike my previous three Millennium visits). It seems like every time we go there, John and I imagine what it would be like to have a restaurant like this in our neighborhood.
Sunday morning came too quickly, but we had just enough time to enjoy a bagel with avocado, tomatoes, olive oil & balsamic vinegar, and some spices with a glass of steamed soy milk from a local coffee shop in North Beach.
And we had to stop on our way to the airport at Maggie Mudd's for ice cream. They made my waffle cone fresh when I ordered it with a scoop of the reverse tarmack. John went for the seasonal pumpkin flavor. It was just enough to tide me over till I got home to Houston.

Okay, so hopefully no more veganmofo posts on the run.

Friday, October 17, 2008

VeganMoFo: California Food Journal

Day 5 - Santa Cruz

Ah! I'm trying to play veganmofo catch up (hopefully post dating blogs is not considered cheating).

We only got to spend one night in Santa Cruz, but it was a good one! John and I met up with Amey (from Vegan Eats & Treats) and Musty for dinner at Malabar / Asian Rose for Sri Lankan cuisine. Amey and I discovered we both had a serious weakness for bread (and that garlic olive oil was still on my breath the next day!). I attempted to take photographs of dinner, but my camera was misbehaving... though I thought the resulting effect was kind of cool. We sampled three different dishes and shared them at the table including a mango curry, something called the India Jonze curry, and an eggplant dish with tofu. So delicious! I would highly recommend Malabar... especially if it comes along with Amey's accompaniment, because she had me laughing so hard with stories of her travels. Oh, how I love blogger meet ups!
The next morning after tips from several folks (thanks to all of you!) I stopped by the Bagelry for breakfast before starting a long day of interviews. It felt like quite a novelty to be able to order a bagel with tofutti cream cheese out in public. On campus, I also spotted a Sjaak's chocolate bar. This wasn't for breakfast, but it made for a great mid morning snack.
Tomorrow I'll post the conclusion of my California Food Journal. And then I'll be back to cooking and reading blogs as normal. Thanks to those of you who have left comments even though I haven't reciprocated! I'll be visiting soon ;-)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

VeganMoFo: California Food Journal

Days 3 &4 - Palo Alto

Breakfast the past two days has been on the run, but I was able to purchase coconut milk soy yogurt and some granola to grab on the way. I also had an english muffin with jam this morning before checking out of our B&B.
Dinner on Tuesday night was at Darbar Indian restaurant. For appetizer I tried the vegetable samosas which were a little greasy (like samosas generally are), but very flavorful with a perfect bland of spices. For dinner I had the aloo gobhi which was also delicious and was enough to save for lunch the next day. A great place for Indian cuisine if you're in the area.
I was excited to try out Palo Alto's brand new, all vegan cafe: the Loving Hut. It was also a chance to catch up with one of my baking partners from vegan bootcamp this past summer in NYC. The menu was quite different from what was posted online, much more limited with only abou 5 entrees. Ordered spring rolls for appetizers, which came to our table wrapped in plastic wrap. Dinner for me was a tempeh BLT with avocado on ciabatta that came with a side of quinoa salad. John ordered the Heavenly Salad. We were both reasonably satisfied with our dinners.... But I am sad to say that the piece of chocolate cake I ordered was anything but satisfying. It took quite a bit of shoving my fork to break off a piece of this rubbery cake. Without a doubt this had to be the worst piece of cake I've ever had.

Luckily Fraiche was a five minute walk away, so I was able to sample more frozen soy yogurt, this time with blueberries and toasted almonds (after confirming that their shaved chocolate topping was indeed not vegan).
This afternoon we head to Santa Cruz!

Monday, October 13, 2008

VeganMoFo: California Food Journal

Day 3: Palo Alto

I have been having internet connection issues so I'll make this quick... we left San Francisco Sunday night and headed south to Palo Alto. Breakfast was at the Cowper Inn; strawberries and figs with granola and toast with jam.
Lunch on the Stanford campus at the Treehouse consisted of two veggies tacos with a side of guacamole. These were better than I expected.
And a shitake mushroom rice bowl. Not as impressive, but it was nice to get some broccoli and cauliflower.
Dinner was on the main drag, University, at Zao Noodle Bar. Vegan options were clearly marked and I had the vegetable & tofu noodle bowl. If you order noodle bowls for the amount of noodles, this bowl isn't for you, as it was mostly veggies (which I didn't mind). The service for us was very slow though....
And for dessert I couldn't pass up soy frozen yogurt at Fraiche, topped with mangos and strawberries. I might be back for more of this another night this week!
Whew! I made it through without losing my signal completely. I'll be back tomorrow with more daily eats from Palo Alto!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

VeganMoFo: California Food Journal

San Francisco: Day 2

Brunch at Greens Restaurant on the marina. I had their "signature dish", Mesquite Grilled Brochettes with mushroom, onion, yellow fin potato, bell pepper, corn, and smoked tofu with pistachio pearl couscous.

While roaming around the Yerba Buena Gardens, we stopped for tea and I had a vegan thai iced tea.
We saved space for the Aphrodisiac dinner a Millenium....

L'Intrigue - Fig and Belgian endive salad with a pine nut cream and pepper, fennel, and orange relish. Probably my favorite course.
Le Desir - Kuri squash masa empanada with smoky blackbean puree
La Seduction - There wer two entrees and we each got one and shared. There was a stuffed poblano chili with tempeh "chorizo" filling and a creamed corn and butternut squash hash.
And creole spiced chanterelle and piquinto bean gratin with green beans almondine.
Love Potion #9 - A blencd of pomegranate and fresh lemon juice
La Petit Mort - A pecan cinnamon roll with cappucino ice cream and a pear and bing cherry compote.
Plus we got two heart shaped pistachio cardamom cookies.
It was a delicious meal that I wish I had more time to describe!! I also wish I had more time to visit blogs... hopefully Monday night.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

VeganMoFo: California Food Journal

Day 1: San Francisco
Since I am in California for the week, the only way I'm going to keep up with MoFo is to post my daily eats...

Started off the day at Herbivore on Divisadero for breakfast. I had the southwestern scramble hich included tofu scrable, black beans, potatoes, and cornbread. The scramble was good but the cornbread was pretty dry.

Lunch was at Weird Fish on Mission Street. I couldn't pass up the chance to try seitan "fish" and chips with vegan tartar sauce. Tasty!
After lunch we walked up to Rainbow Grocery where I nabbed a Sugar Beat Sweets peppermint patty cupcake. I devoured it before we even left the store.
And consequently for dinner we met up with the owner/baker of SBS and blogger Melisser and her partner Ryan. We attempted to try out Delfino's new location on Fillmore, but a 1+ hour waitlist drove us to get in a cab and have Ethiopian food at Club Waziama instead. The injera might still be expanding in my stomach. And I decided not to subject you to low lighting pictures (which I'm warning you I might do tomorrow).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

VeganMoFo: Scrambling

As in scrambling to find something to post! I am busy packing tonight.... John and I leave for California tomorrow for a 10 day stay in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Santa Cruz (mostly work related). Needless to say, our dinner was a bit too rushed to photograph. But I will share some recent dinners with you that I've enjoyed, but haven't gotten around to blogging about.

This is my first recipe from my newly acquired Real Food Daily Cookbook (thanks Brian!): seitan tacos. I even made my own pico de gallo! Usually I am just lazy and buy premade stuff.
Butternut squash lentil soup. This was the first butternut squash of the season that I saw at the grocery store. I think it was about 90 degrees outside when I made this, but that didn't matter much to me.
And finally, one of my favorite meals in the last few weeks, Hannah's entry for the Whole Foods Budget Recipe Challenge, miso bulgur pilaf with lemon ginger tofu. This meal comes together in a flash, tastes delicious, and how could you say no to only $2.86 per serving? I am rooting for Hannah to win!
And speaking of winners, several of you asked who I am rooting for from Project Runway.... organic Leanne (that was also my favorite cupcake)!