Tag Archives: Vegan Food

MoFo Day 8: But I Could Never Go Vegan Cookbook Review

Today’s MofFo theme is “make a new vegan friend.”  Cookbooks count as friends, right?  They provide us with advice (on cooking and lifestyle), comfort us (with food) in tough times and the best ones make us feel like we know the author.  Today’s challenge was about making a living, breathing friend you say?  I can’t hear you because I’m busy snuggling up with my cookbook collection.

For today’s post, I’ll focus on one of my newest cookbooks: But I Could Never Go Vegan by Kristy Turner. Turner, a former fromagier, writes a popular vegan blog called Keepin’ It Kind.  But I Could Never Go Vegan is her first book and what a fun debut.  Each chapter is based upon an excuse for eating animal foods such as “But I Hate [Insert Vegetable Here]” and “But I Scream for Ice Cream,” and has recipes that debunk that excuse.  The cute concept alone makes the book enjoyable to flip through, but the beautiful pictures and inventive recipes add to the fun.  My only quibble is that some of the recipe intros lack color.  I would love to know a bit more about Turner’s life and how she came up with the various recipes.

At first glance, Turner’s recipes can seem a bit overwhelming.  Many have multiple components or require long cooking times.  However, as I actually cooked through the book, I found that there were a good mix of quick and easy recipe and more elaborate ones.  Though I’m not sure that this is a great book for a beginner, I do think it has a lot to offer for intermediate and advanced cooks of every persuasion.  The recipes are unique, well-thought-out and creative.

Here are a few of the recipes I tried.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream:  The first recipe I tried from this book was actually my least favorite.  Though there was nothing wrong with this ice cream, the almond extract called for in the recipe over-powered the peanut butter flavor.  I like my peanut butter ice cream to taste like peanut butter, so I would not make this recipe again as written.  I’m as shocked as you are that ice cream of any kind qualified as a least favorite for me.

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BLT Tacos: These were so easy and so tasty. If you marinate the tempeh for the tempeh bacon ahead of time, the whole recipe comes together in less than 15 minutes.  Plus BLT as a taco is genius.  Everything should be taco-ized.

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Sesame Sriracha Tofu Sandwich:  I’ll confess that I really don’t like Sriracha, which I think makes me a vegan blasphemer. I do like a good tofu sandwich though, so I made this with chili garlic sauce instead of Sriracha.  It’s basically sloppy joe meets Korean barbecue.  It was okay, but not my favorite.

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Chocolate Stout Chili Fries:  This is a solid chili recipe served over oven fries, so it’s not even that unhealthy.  I topped mine with the sour cream from the book (good in recipes, but not so great on its own) and some guac.

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And saving the best for last, Seitan Phyllo Purses.  These are little phyllo pouches stuffed with seitan and gravy and served on top of more gravy.  They were as delicious as they sound.

PicMonkey Collage

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Vegan Mofo Day 5: Best Sandwich Ever

IDI beet burger

Veg*ns these days have it easy.  Case in point: I’ve actually heard complaints that the “only” vegan item on the menu is a veggie burger.  Why, in my day, we walked uphill both ways to a restaurant only to be told that our choices were iceberg lettuce salad and a dry baked potato.  Going out to a place that served frozen Gardenburger patties was a special treat.

Now, most restaurants that serve veggie burgers make their patties in house.  I’ve found everything from bean patties, to grain patties, to tempeh patties — often with interesting topping choices like flavored aiolis or roasted veggies.  While it’s true that veggie burgers have become the standard veg*n item at restaurants, even an okay veggie burger is satisfying and beats the heck out of a “steamed vegetable plate.”  And I submit that a good veggie burger perfectly fits today’s best sandwich ever MoFo theme.

The burger above is the Bistro Beet Burger from Isa Does It, which I made for the first time today in honor of MoFo.  It’s a lentil, brown rice and beet patty that’s lightly seasoned and pan-fried.  Although the texture of the burger was spot-on, I found these patties to be a little bland topped just with ketchup, mustard and pickles.  But with the right toppings, these burgers could be a thing of beauty.  I’m thinking sauteed mushrooms and pesto mayo, or perhaps avocado and veggie bacon, or maybe onion rings, ranch dressing and buffalo sauce.  The possibilities are endless.

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Vegan Mofo Day 2: Loaf Is Not an Appetizing Word

The theme for day 2 of MoFo is “recreate a meal from your childhood.”  I was fortunate to be raised in a family that ate dinner together most nights and I move mountains to do the same for my son.  The two main differences between family dinners during my childhood and now are: 1) I grew up eating meat; and 2) unlike my son, I actually ate the food that was served to me.

My Mom had a short list of meals that she rotated through from Monday through Thursday, including chicken cutlets, pot roast and vegetable soup.  Fridays and Sundays were always pasta and my Dad often cooked on Saturdays.  As a small child, my favorite of Mom’s standard meals was meatloaf.  I think this was, in part, because meatloaf employs ground meat and seasoning and thus one can avoid the bones and veins that are uncomfortable reminders of who the meal once was.  (My vegetarian tendencies definitely manifested themselves early on).  That and the fact that meatloaf is a great vehicle for ketchup.

When I first gave up meat, I stuck to cooking simple meals like tofu stir-fry and frozen veggie burgers.  But as my cooking skills improved, the idea of recreating childhood favorites without the meat ick-factor began to appeal to me.  In my search for the perfect meatless loaf, I cooked my way through at least half-a-dozen recipes, finally settling on Dreena Burton’s Lentil Sunflower Pie as the best of the bunch.  Although I could have re-blogged that trusty Lentil Sunflower Pie, MoFo calls for just a little bit more.

Instead, I present the Lentil Mushroom Loaf from But I Could Never Go Vegan.  Honestly, this loaf recipe isn’t that much different than Dreena’s.  It has the same lentil base and similar seasonings.  The main differences are the use of mushrooms instead of Sunflower Seeds and a the addition of a ketchup glaze with a little extra kick from vinegar and powdered mustard.  Overall, the loaf had a good texture and held together nicely, but it definitely needed the glaze for flavor.  That was fine by me because I always drown my loaf in ketchup.

Verdict: If, like me, you grew up with ketchup-covered meatloaf, this Lentil Mushroom Loaf just may inspire some nosh-talgia for you.

 

Never Go Vegan Loaf

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Cookbook Obsession: Review of The Lusty Vegan

Since its release early this year, The Lusty Vegan by Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg seems to have flown under the radar — and I’m not sure why.  It’s a book that’s beautiful to look at, fun to read and has a unique point of view.  In addition to recipes, The Lusty Vegan aims to be a vegan dating manifesto — and it’s full of amusing anecdotes from its authors’ failed relationships and advice to bridge dietary differences.

Howell is a professional chef, so his recipes are unique and deliver complex flavors.  As a bonus, everything I’ve tried has been surprisingly easy to put together.

Overall, I highly recommend The Lusty Vegan.  The only negative is that some recipes in the book call for vegan convenience foods like cream cheese or cheese shreds.  Those recipes are mostly in the chapter of recipes designed to be cooked by non-vegans, so the use of transition foods makes sense.  For those of us who prefer to avoid processed convenience foods, there are still plenty of recipes to choose from.  (Also of note: In keeping with the theme, the book also features some photos of the authors in their undies.  Be prepared to get some looks if you read your copy of the bus like I did.)

RECIPE REVIEWS

My husband loves capers and sandwiches, so I had to try the Tempeh Piccata Hoagie first.  The sandwich is basically piccata deconstructed.  It features lemon herb marinated tempeh topped with a lemon caper mayo.  I pre-marinated the tempeh, so the recipe came together in less than fifteen minutes — and it was as tasty as it sounds.

Tempeh Piccata Hoagie

(Tempeh Piccata Hoagie)

The next recipe on my list was the Hearts of Palm Lobster Roll.  Here in Boston, lobster rolls are ubiquitous and I was intrigued by the idea of a vegan version.  This was another quick and easy recipe with a tasty result.  I’ve never had a lobster roll, but my husband tells me that the faux lobster filling was too acidic.  I’m not sure if that’s because I didn’t rinse the hearts of palm before cooking them, or if the recipe calls for too much lemon.

Hearts of Palm Lobster Roll

Hearts of Palm Lobster Roll

The Fried Tofu Sandwich is another 15 minute wonder featuring seasoned tofu topped with pickles and mustard.  It’s perfect in its simplicity.

Fried Tofu Sandwich

Fried Tofu Sandwich

To prove that The Lusty Vegan contains recipes for things other than sandwiches, I decided to next delve into the breakfast chapter (aka “The Morning After”).  I tried both the Cloud 9 Pancakes and the Orange Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast.  The pancakes were a fail for me. As written, the recipe makes a batter as thick as cookie dough.  I had trouble getting the pancakes to spread or cook properly.  The french toast, on the other hand, is amazing.  It will be on my must make list whenever I have extra cream cheese in my fridge.

Cloud 9 Pancakes

Cloud 9 Pancakes

Orange Cream Cheese French Toast

Orange Cream Cheese French Toast

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New Year’s Brunch

For many, a new year brings with it a renewed focus on healthy eating habits.  But, New Year’s Day itself — a day of post-party hangovers — is the perfect excuse for one final celebratory meal.  After all that celebrating (and sleeping in for you lucky folks without tiny human alarm clocks), a tasty brunch is the obvious choice.  While a vegan brunch at most restaurants is an uninspired affair of fruit salads and plain oatmeal, the options for cooking at home are limitless.

Why not try a tasty stack of pancakes?  My tips for perfectly fluffy ones and a list of favorite recipes are here.  The pancakes pictured below are Coconut Pie Pancakes from La Dolce Vegan.  In my opinion, not as good as the coconut pancakes from Vegan with a Vengeance, but still a worthy holiday meal.

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If pancakes aren’t your style, maybe a thick Belgian waffle will hit the spot.  Vegan Brunch has a lot of great recipes, including the wonderful peanut butter waffles pictured below.  I usually enjoy them with maple syrup and bananas, but this time I mixed it up.  I topped the waffles with birch syrup that I picked up in Alaska.  (Who knew that they tap birch trees for syrup too?)   The honey-notes of the birch syrup were a nice complement to the peanut butter.

 

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Since it’s still the holiday season (at least for a few hours more), fragrant Gingerbread Waffles are also a good pick.  Or go for the tried-and-true Chelsea Waffles, an absolutely perfect version of traditional plain waffles.  Both recipes are in Vegan Brunch.

If a savory breakfast is what you prefer, tofu scramble always hits the spot.  Or go upscale with a Benedict.  Both Veganomicon and Vegan Diner have great Benedict variations.

If you’re not a fan of waking up to a big meal, a batch of muffins might be the perfect choice.  Bakery muffins are nearly always a disappointment — big on calories and sugar and lacking in the flavor department.  In contrast, homemade muffins are always tasty and sometimes even healthy.  These chocolate berry muffins from Vegan Brunch are low in fat (they call for applesauce in place of much of the oil, but I subbed raspberry jam) and made with whole-grain flour.  Plus, they are bursting with berries and chocolate, both of which are packed with antioxidants and deliciousness.

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Now all you need is a glass of champagne to toast 2015.  Cheers!

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God Bless Us Everyone

With an exhausted, happy little boy tucked safely in bed, a belly full of tasty food and A Muppet Christmas Carol on the TV, it’s hard to feel anything other than lucky today.  This was the first year that my son understood the concept of Santa, so it was the first year that we left out cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve.  Santa made out like a bandit with Chocolate Thumbprints from Vegan with a Vengeance, Maple cookies from Chloe’s Kitchen and Chai Snickerdoodles from Isa Does It (plus a nice glass of soy milk and some carrots for the reindeer).  The Chocolate Thumbprints were the breakout star of the cookie plate and have been fully devoured.  At 2, my son does not yet fully understand the concept of doing for others, so Santa’s cookies were gently licked before being hastily placed upon the plate after Daddy’s reminder that they were for the big man.

A word of warning:  she who tells a toddler that a chubby, bearded man will be breaking and entering assumes the risk of interrupted sleep.  My son demanded to sleep in our bed because he was concerned that, along with Santa, “skunks and birds” would be coming down the chimney.  Fortunately, my son hasn’t yet started waking at the crack of dawn on Christmas, so we received some compensation for our semi-sleepless night and got to sleep until 8.

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After presents and a nice, long walk with the dog, our day of feasting began.  Christmas is a great excuse to bake, so I didn’t stop with cookies.  For our Christmas dessert, we enjoyed pumpkin pie.  I used the crust recipe from Vegan Pie in the Sky and the filling recipe from La Dolce Vegan.  (I did not make the crumb-nut topping and the pie was delicious even without).  This pie received rave reviews.

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Whatever you celebrate, I hope your holidays were filled with family, friends, laughter and lots of cruelty-free goodies.

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Cookbook Obsession: A Review of The Oh She Glows Cookbook

Ten years ago, we were lucky if a vegan cookbook contained a small photo insert.  Now, full-color photos throughout seem to be becoming standard.  But even in a world where vegan cookbook publishers have stepped up their game, The Oh She Glows Cookbook stands out for its design and gorgeous photography.

Oh She Glows is the work of blogger Angela Liddon, who writes the incredibly popular blog of the same name.  For those unfamiliar with Angela’s work (as I was until recently), the focus is on simple recipes prepared with whole food ingredients.  I put off buying the book for quite a while because many of the main dish recipes did not seem particularly innovative.  I have lots of recipes for things like Chana Masala and African Peanut Soup already.  The healthy snack chapter, which features things like salt and vinegar roasted chickpeas and  peanut butter “cookie dough” balls made from oats, made me reconsider.  I wondered: Could Angela get my son to eat a remotely healthy meal?  As I flipped through the book weighing my purchase, the back cover endorsement by Dreena Burton sealed the deal.

You may have noticed that I like to cook multiple recipes from a book before reviewing it. Oh She Glows is lovely to behold and features the sort of chatty recipe introductions that I enjoy, but did the recipes deliver?  The proof would be in the chia pudding.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find chia seeds, so I started with the Maple Cinnamon Apple and Pear Baked Oatmeal (page 39) instead.

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Oatmeal is one of those foods that I eat because it’s good for me.  I don’t get particularly excited about it.  Baked oatmeal, however, is a simple way to elevate the humble breakfast porridge.  Angela’s version is lightly sweetened, lightly spiced and loaded up with chunks of fresh fruit and walnuts.  Although I enjoyed my oats (and managed to coerce my son into eating a few bites), I don’t agree with Angela’s suggestion that this would be a good company dish.  It didn’t have the wow factor I look for when cooking for special occasions.  It also made way more than 6 servings, so I will half the recipe in the future.

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For lunch, I whipped up the Perfected Chickpea Salad Sandwich (page 105).  The recipe title does not lie.  This is the best chickpea salad I have ever made.  As a bonus, it contains just 2 tablespoons of mayo and lots of crunchy veggies, so I felt like it was one of the healthiest versions, too.

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I was a bit puzzled by the smoothie section because it seemed like Angela was taking credit for inventing the green smoothie.  Having witnessed my parents jump on every health food fad from the 80’s on, I am quite certain that green smoothies were a thing long before 2008 (as was frozen banana soft-serve, which Pinterest seems to have only recently discovered, but I digress).  My confusion over the green smoothie recipes did not stop me from buzzing up a glass of Pumpkin Pie Smoothie (page 62) from the same chapter.  This recipe was a keeper.  Although it was made with nothing but fruit, milk, spices and just a bit of sweetener (maple syrup), it tasted like drinking a glass of my grandmother’s pumpkin pie.  My son voluntarily had a few sips and said, “I like this.”

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Next, I tried the Cream of Tomato Soup with Roasted Italian Chickpea Croutons (page 141).  Cream of tomato soup is not something I ate growing up, but I’ve developed a taste for it as an adult.  This version, which gets depth of flavor from 3 types of tomatoes (paste, dried and canned), is one of the best I’ve tried.  As a bonus, it’s easy-as-can be to make.  Just saute the onion and then buzz everything up in the blender.  My son refused to sample the soup, but ate quite a few of the “chicken peas.” There were no leftovers after this meal.

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Chilly autumn nights seem to call out for soup, so I put the Indian Lentil-Cauliflower Soup (page 133) on the menu too.  This was another recipe that was both simple to throw together and tasty.  Since the recipe relies heavily on curry powder for flavor, I used my “secret” curry powder trick.  Whenever I make curry with curry powder (rather than a homemade spice blend), I combine two or three different types of curry powder (for example, hot and mild or two different brands).  I find that this keeps the curry from tasting flat and one-note.  My dad commented on how filling this dish was, even with just a simple salad on the side.

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Finally, I made the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas (page 147).  This was my least favorite dish of the bunch.  It required dirtying lots of pots and pans and took quite a while to cook.  That would have been okay if dinner had knocked my socks off, but this dish just did not have the big flavors I look for in Mexican food.  I think the rest of my family agreed because the leftover enchiladas sat for nearly a week before someone finally ate them.

Final verdict:

Most recipes were easy to make, tasty and full of veggies, fruits and legumes. There’s enough to love here to make up for the few lackluster recipes.

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