Tuesday, November 30, 2010

So Long, and Thanks for All the Laverfish

This is the last post of Vegan MoFo 2010. Sad day, but I feel very accomplished. This is the third MoFo I've signed up for, but only the first I've actually completed. October and November have always been busy months for me, but this year I planned had a few back up posts, which really helped on days when I didn't have time to cook, or felt lacking in inspiration. I wish MoFo was in March or even February.

Not only did I post every weekday, as was my goal, but I managed to post every day of the month, except the first Saturday. I actually surpassed my goal by 32%! I also participated in all but the last Iron Chef challenge. After the horror of working on Black Friday, and being sick, I just wasn't up for it. But I think the Iron Chef challenges are what I'll miss most about Vegan MoFo.

I am really glad I participated this year, and I would like to participate next year, but I did notice a few things I wasn't particularly pleased with this month. All I did in my spare time, was think about food, make food, take pictures of food, or write about food. Spending a lot of time on food is not that unusual for a foodie or a vegan (especially during the month of November...), but I did let other things fall by the wayside this month.

I posted a lot of pictures I wasn't super thrilled with, because I had to post something. I also published many posts without pictures at all, which I don't like to do. The first week was great, I had tons of ideas and was very excited about my upcoming posts, and I was baking like a mofo. i was also finding tons of new blogs to read, and catching on old favorites I hadn't read in a while. But then week one ended, and I started getting bogged down with life, work, dishes, and a huge backlog of unread posts. For the rest of the month, I only skimmed a few posts a day, usually the ones highlighted on the Vegan MoFo homepage. It seemed like Thanksgiving just pushed everyone over the edge; many MoFo-ers stopped posting due to burn out or illness.

On the other hand, Vegan MoFo enabled me to stop second guessing myself and just post the damn thing already. I usually get excited about something, and start to write, but then get too wordy, start digressing, and then never finish the post. Or I think I need to have a picture before I can post about the awesome thing I just ate/place I just visited/person I just met. VeganMoFo doesn't stop for you, so you have to just publish the post already. Another great thing is that even though I wasn't able to read much this month, I will have, literally, tons of wonderful vegan posts to read for months to come!

On that note, my final 2010 MoFo post:

Tofu McVegan, sautéed greens with shiitakes and sesame seeds, and garlic scalloped sweet potatoes.

Tofu McVegan? Egg McVegan? Veg McTofu? I don't know what to call my vegan version of an Egg McMuffin.

JD doesn't like these, so I don't make them very often. He says they're too egg-like; he never liked Egg McMuffins, preferring instead the sausage version.

I used to love getting breakfast at Mickey D's. It was a rare treat, and usually only reserved for some kind of unusal occasion, like going to see a doctor, or being on vacation. It also combined some of favorite parts of meals--bread products, potatoes, and fried foods--into one supermeal. Of course, it wasn't healthy, and it didn't include anything fresh.

Almost two years ago, while lurking on the old PPK boards, I saw some people talking about vegan eggs, and more specifically, vegan egg mcmuffin eggs. One person in particular inspired me, Ate Bit Vegan.

With his image of a tofu egg in mind, I set about trying to recreate the texture. One thing came to mind immediately: chickpea flour. I salted a few pieces of tofu, cut them into large, thick rounds, then fried them over medium heat until both sides were just slightly browned around the edges.

Then I experimented with different seasonings for the "yolk". I liked a cominbation of a small amount of sea salt, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and turmeric for color. I though about trying blac salt, but I really don't want my tofu eggs to smell like sulfur. I added just enough water to make a very thick, dry paste. It already looked sort of egg yolk-like. I cut off center holes out of the tofu "egg white" rounds, then filled each hole with the chickpea "egg yolk" and pan fried once more. This produced a nearly perfect vegan egg muffin-style egg! But, for some reason I never posted about it. I guess because I didn't have an exact recipe.

Vegan "Egg McMuffiin-style" Tofu Eggs
by Christina Terriquez

1 lb firm tofu
sea salt

2--4 tablespoons chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
garlic powder
nutritional yeast
optional: black salt

extra virgin olive or safflower oil

Cut tofu block into a large square. Carefully slice tofu into 2 or 3 thick, square slices. Round off edges of tofu slices, if you wish, or make square Tofu McVegan "eggs". Tofu slices should be about 3--4 inches in diameter, and 1/2"--3/4" thick. Salt both sides of each slice well and set aside for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix 2 tablespoons chickpea flour, 1/4 teaspoon each of garlic powder and nutritional yeast, and a big pinch of sea salt or black salt, if using. Add 1 tablespoon water and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste, and add more chickpea flour for texture if needed.

Heat a small amount of oil over medium heat. Pat tofu dry and lightly pan fry tofu until both sides are golden brown. Remove from pan and allow to cool slightly.

Cut a small, 1" diameter, off-center hole in each slice. Fill each hole with chickpea "yolk" mixture. This should take about 1 tablespoon. Pan fry on both sides to heat through and gently cook the "yolk".

These are especially useful for eggs benedict or mcmuffin-style sandwiches. For a sandwich, toast vegan Englich Muffin, heat up a slice of vegan Canadian bacon or ham, add the tofu "egg" and a slice of your favorite American-style vegan cheese slice. Serve with tons of greens and veggies!

I always found egg white to be pretty bland, so I don't add any seasoning but salt to my tofu egg whites. If you prefer a more flavorful tofu egg, garlic powder, smoked paprika, or chipotle powder might be nice additions.

If desired, mash 1--2 tablespoons of tofu scraps and mix into chickpea yolk mixture.

For this recipe, I usually cut off both hard outside edges of tofu.

I hope you had a great Vegan MoFo, and that you have time to catch up on all of your reading!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Product Review: Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick'n

I went to the store after work, hungry, and worried about what I'd make for dinner, when I happened upon this, which I'd never seen before. It looked good, sounded better, and I knew I had to try it that night with some jasmine rice and a broccoli, yellow bell pepper, carrot and onion stir fry.

It was great! This was a perfect, 20 minute meal, that tasted great and left us feeling happy, satisfied, and healthy. I pan fried the chick'n pieces in a small amount of oil until the inside was warm and tender and the outside was crispy, then added the sauce. Preparing this alone would have taken less than 10 minutes, so if you had leftover grains, you could easily make a whole meal in about 12 minutes.

I was worried that the sauce would be way too sweet, and it was just a bit sweet, but with 4 or so drops of shoyu, it was perfect. You could add some ginger juice or chili pepper flakes if you wanted a little heat. The chick'n had a buttery flavor and tender texture, with the perfect amount of crispness.

We've tried it a few more times, and loved it each time. The last time I made it, I added some stir fried carrots, ginger juice, red pepper flakes and the juice of one small tangerine (because I was adding so many carrots, and needed to stretch the sauce) to the glaze while it cooked, then served on a bed of jasmine rice, topped it with white and black sesame seeds and scallions, along with a side of blanched asparagus.

JD says it's as good as, or better than some of the poultry versions of Mandarin Chicken he's had. He also thinks most omnis wouldn't miss anything if they tried it this way.

I have already bought it again, for those times when I don't have time to make anything from scratch. I could definitely see us enjoying this once a month or so. It's so buttery and delicious, not to mention easy! It about as fast as Chinese takeout would be, too. Maybe even faster, and much healthier. We highly recommend Gardein's Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick'n.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Vegan Vanguard's Austin, Texas Top Ten

Okay, I'm cheating a little bit because this isn't a list of top ten dishes, but these are the top places in Austin where I enjoy eating on a regular basis, and the items I typically order.

This has an addtional, unintentional bonus: I think all of these places are good places to go with omnis, so omnis can take their vegan friends, or vegans can take their omni friends, and you'll still be friends afterwards! Since JD is omni, I tend to go to omni places that have vegan options. Most of these are places that we both enjoy and we can each get exactly what we want, without making the other compromise.

1) Conan's - Don't Choke Art! Vegan Deep Dish on Wheat, with Daiya.

2) Get Sum Dim Sum - GetSum Veggie Combo (with any of the vegan options), the rice soup, spinach dumplings, vegetable bao, sesame balls, and Law Mai Gai.

3) Kerbey Lane - Spinach, Mushroom and Artichoke Heart Omelet,with homefries and vegan blueberry pancake, veganized (so, tofu subbed for eggs and no green chile cream or cheese), the vegan pancake of the day, vegan soup of the day, sweet potato fries, mocha "cheesecake".

4) Sugar Mama's Bakeshop - I like every vegan cupcake I've tried here. I've even heard that the vegan chocolate cake is better than the non-vegan. The chocolate mint (Peppermint Patty) is the one I've had most, and I love it, but I think it might become my second favorite when I try the Chocolate Covered Cherry.

5) Dog Almighty - I get the veggie Pfluger Dog, add yellow mustard to it, then share a side of tots or rings with JD. Sometimes they have vegan beer brats. I wish they offered vegan corndogs. I haven't tried the chili, but have heard it's awesome, but I'm not much of a fan of chili; if they offered Daiya, I'd try a vegan frito pie or vegan chili cheese dog. I also wish the chocolate covered grahams were actually vegan, because I used to get them and enjoyed the thick chocolate coating.

6) Veggie Heaven - Protein 2000. Seriously, It's the only thing I enjoy here, but it's so damn addictive/delicious.

7) Mr. Natural's on Cesar Chavez - Gluten-Free Chocolate Muffin, Lunch Combo, or Breakfast Burritos.

8) Wheatsville Co-op - Popcorn Tofu (as a snack, or in a sandwich, but not as a po boy--way too big bread-to-fu ratio with hoagie bread), cookies, frozen treats, and hot bar items, like tempeh chili. Bonus, it's a grocery, so you can pick up your Daiya, Dandies, a Go Max Go bar, beer and wine, or some fresh (and often local) vegetables.

9) Claypit - This is the place I first tried vegetable samosas. It was love at first bite. I like the channa masala, too.

10) Lulu B's - Lemongrass Tofu Vermicelli Bowl.

I dearly miss Dhaba Joy and the former incarnation of Java Noodles. Java Noodles is still around, but the last few times we ordered from them, the food was just....lacking something.

You'll notice there's only one food trailer on this list. Unfortunately, I haven't been to many. A few I did enjoy are now sadly, closed. Mostly, they are just too far north for me, and/or not open when I have time to get to them.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Recipe Review: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm not sure how I stumbled onto the best recipe for vegan double chocolate cookies, but I am so glad I did! I have not met anyone who didn't love these decadent, luscious cookies, and I love making big batches so I can give some away and make someone's day. You can really make this recipe your own by using an unrefined liquid sweetener, using different or less oil, adding dried fruit, changing the type of nut, changing the flavor of extract, and varying the amount of baking time. I've done a a lot of different things with it, and it always comes out great!

My usual way of making it is adapted as follows.

Double Chocolate Walnut Cookies
by Christina Terriquez, adapted from ehow.com

2 cups all purpose unbleached flour or white wheat flour
1/3 cup natural cocoa powder
1/3 cup dutch process (dark) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cup sugar or 1 cup agave nectar
4 teaspoons ground flax seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
2/3 cup safflower oil, coconut oil, or a combination of both
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1--2 teaspoons almond extract
3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips
3/4 cups finely chopped walnuts (or your favorite nut)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium sized bowl, sift the first six ingredients together.

In a bowl or large glass measuring cup, whisk together ground flax seeds and soymilk. Add oil and extracts. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and mix to combine. Fold walnuts and chocolate chips into batter.

Using a cookie scoop, or tablespoon, drop cookie dough onto a cookie sheet or parchment-covered cookie sheet and flatten each cookie with palm.

Bake cookies for approximately 10 minutes.

Allow to cool then remove from cookie sheet and devour. Try to save a few for your friends and family. Okay, one for each family member. Okay, try to restrain yourself from eating the whole damn batch.

For softer cookies, bake for a minute or two less.

For crispier cookies, bake for a minute longer.

I think these would be great as double chocolate mint cookies: omit the nuts, substitute mint extract for the almond extract.

Make sure to use small chocolate chips and chop the walnuts small, or the pieces will fall out of the cookies before you can flatten them.

Make brownie cookies by make larger, fatter cookies and letting them stay a bit soft.

When I use my cookie scoop, this recipe yields about 18-24 cookies.

If you have vegan white chocolate chips, these would be great with white chocolate instead of, or in addition to the dark chocolate chips. Try adding 3/4 cup white chips, in addition to the original 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips for Triple Chocolate Cookies. Or make White Chocolate Chip Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies by subbing the white chips for the dark chocolate chips and macadamia nuts pieces for the walnuts.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Survey Says

I'm still feeling under the weather, and now I've lost my voice. Argh. I didn't cook at all, and am a bit lacking for inspiration, so I'm going to do the MoFo survey that everyone's been posting.

What is one food you thought you’d miss when you went vegan, but don’t?
Dairy products like ice cream and cheese, but not milk itself. I never liked milk, it was always too thick and overwhelming, or, if it was skim, too thin and watery.
What is a food or dish you wouldn’t touch as a child, but enjoy now?
A lot of small things like condiments and pickled items. Mustard made me gag, cauliflower was too sharp, and I couldn't stand dill cucumber pickles. I never liked olives as a kid, but I think I had only ever tried black olives, and I think part of my dislike stemmed from my irrational fear--when they're whole or sliced they look like eyeballs to me. Squishy, salty eyeballs on pizza freaked me out.
What vegan dish or food you feel like you “should” like, but don’t?
Kombucha isn't just vegan, but lots of vegans love it, and I think it's super gross.
The super-noochy tofu scrambles from Bouldin Creek Cafe are very beloved, and I've heard vegans talk of traveling to Austin just to eat them. I think they're icky and feels like they're covered in sawdust.
I only had the seitan buffalo wings from Watercourse Foods in Denver once, so it may have been an off day, but they were so heavy on the vinegar, my tongue felt pickled, and none of us could eat more than 2. Again, I've heard many vegans talk about how great these are.
What beverage do you consume the most of on any given day?
Water! I can't get enough.
What dish are your “famous” for making or bringing to gatherings?
I never thought about it, but it seems like I tend to make food based on the type of event. I take my Perfect Pecan Pie to macro gatherings, seitan-based dishes or desserts to VRA/vegan events, and sushi or dessert to Austin Food Blogger meetups.
Do you have any self-imposed food rules (like no food touching on the plate or no nuts in sweets)?
Not really. Though I prefer my foods stay separate in general. Sometimes I like picking out the vegetables by type or color, like with stir fries, curries, or fried rice, I'll pick out all of the peas, then the carrots, then eat the rest.
What’s one food or dish you tend to eat too much of when you have it in your home?
Dessert. I used to be really bad about nut butters, though.
What ingredient or food do you prefer to make yourself despite it being widely available prepackaged?
Sweets. I can make exactly what I want, exactly how I want it. I also feel really guilty spending $3 on one cupcake, when I know I can make a whole batch for less by volume.
What ingredient or food is worth spending the extra money to get “the good stuff”?
Chocolate. Dark chocolate is amazing and if it's good, a little goes a long way. It also makes you feel better, just ask Madame Pomfrey.
Alcohol. Life is too short for cheap booze.
Oil. The quality of oil can very greatly, and a lot of cheap, poor quality oils have been heated too high as part of the refining process, which makes them rancid, then they are clarified and flavorings are added.
Are you much of a snacker? What are your favorite snacks?
Not generally, though I do love hummus and chips/pita with olives, or guacamole with chips.
My latest favorite snack is freshly popped popcorn with a little melted EB and Old Bay. Sometimes I like it with a cinnamon, rice syrup and pecan glaze.
What are your favorite vegan pizza toppings?
Monterrey Jack style FYH, artichoke hearts, greens like spinach, arugala, or broccoli, olives and sautéed mushrooms in pretty much any combination. Sometimes I'll get in a mood for seitan or vegan sausage, roasted red peppers, and green olives.
I used to order pizzas with no cheese, and mushrooms and onions before commercial vegan cheeses were worth a damn (or offered for delivery). Now my favorite thing to order is the Don't Choke Art! on wheat deep dish, with Daiya.
What is your favorite vegetable? Fruit?
I have to pick just one? Broccoli, though I use onions in EVERYTHING. In the fall I love pomegranates and in the spring and summer, peaches.
What is the best salad dressing?
I make a creamy green goddess with avocado, ume vinegar and tons of herbs that's awesome on romaine with plenty of cucumber and it's super cooling on sweltering days. For everyday salads, I like something light and simple, like lime vinaigrette, with lime juice, white wine vinegar, sea salt, and a touch of coconut oil.
What is your favorite thing to put on toasted bread?
I huge fan of toast (YEAH toast!). And I like it anyway you'll give it to me. With a little EB, with EB and jam, with jam. With melted FYH, with avocado and sea salt mashed all over it, with hummus. Dipped in olive oil or dipping oil, as garlic bread. With strawberry or raspberry preserves and almond or cashew butter. With macadamia nut butter. With almond butter and chocolate chips, or melted chocolate. Yum.
What kind of soup do you most often turn to on a chilly day or when you aren’t feeling your best?
Miso! Preferably with tons of wakame and green onion.
What is your favorite cupcake flavor? Frosting flavor?
What is your favorite kind of cookie?
What is your most-loved “weeknight meal”?
You mean super quick and easy? That would be Chick'n Parmeshaun. But I try not to eat it too often, since the patties and FYH are pretty refined. Rice with a veggie stir fry, or fried rice are more typical.
What is one dish or food you enjoy, but can’t get anyone else in your household to eat?
Uh.... JD doesn't like broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, asparagus, mushrooms, avocado, raw tomatoes, many fermented items, quinoa, millet.....
How long, in total, do you spend in the kitchen on an average day?
Usually about 1-2 hours total, for all meals. I like to make leftovers and eat those or something simple like salads, stir fries or sandwiches for lunch. If I'm working the next day, I usually throw it together by packaging small portions together while putting away leftovers from dinner.

Edited for clarity because I probably shouldn't write when I'm tired and sick.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 Recap

I thought we were going to have to cancel Thanksgiving because of how awful I felt yesterday. But JD helped prep everything, we scaled back the menu a bit, and made a few things in advance, so we were able to have a delicious meal.

I made an Unturkey-esque roast. Rice pilaf stuffed inside seitan, then wrapped in yuba. This was really easy to prep before hand, and we actually made the seitan entirely the night before and let it cook all night long and and I soaked the long grain brown and wild rice overnight.

JD made the pie crusts, and we had Kentucky Bourbon (chocolate walnut) pie, and sweet potato pie. I love these pies so much! I wanted to make an ebook of pie recipes, including these, for the holidays but Vegan MoFo kicked my ass. These pies were made entirely in advance. The sweet potato pie filling had actually been made months in advance and frozen in an airtight container, then it was thawed overnight in the fridge and poured into a prepare pie crust and baked.

I've been having daydreams of potato gratin for the past week. I don't know what sparked this because I only remember having this dish once in my life, and it was a really awful version, with dehydrated potatoes. But for some reason, I kept imagining tender, creamy potatoes in a thick, luscious sauce, and how warm and comforting they would be fresh from the oven. Since we were having mashed potatoes, I decided to try making a sweet potato gratin.

Holy, holy! It was amazing. The sauce was super creamy, buttery, and extremely luscious. The sweet potatoes melted in your mouth. I will definitely be adding this to my rotation. I would change a few things, such as making thicker layers, and making the sauce a little bit thinner, but it was fantastic.

We also had walnut, cranberry and fig cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, vanilla cranberry sauce, sparkling/sugared cranberries, creamed greens, and extra rice pilaf with pecans.

Most importantly of all, if was a good day with good company. And now I'm going back to bed.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Guide to a Vegan Vanguard Thanksgiving, Part 1 and 2

I'm feeling pretty awful right now, so sore and headachy and just sick that I'm not even feeling up to cooking anything for Thanksgiving at the moment. I'm reposting my guide from 2 years ago because I think it's really great for new vegans, though I probably should have posted it last week.

Guide to a Vegan Vanguard Thanksgiving, Part 1

How to Have a Thanksgiving with Less Stress and More Quality Time

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. For most people, this is a day of family, food, and hopefully, love and community--but for some vegans and vegetarians, especially new vegans or vegetarians and their families, Thanksgiving can be especially stressful. Here are some things I've picked up over the years:

If you're around all of your family for the first time since making a huge lifestyle change, your family is bound to be curious. Some people handle their curiosity better than others, but be prepared to play 20 questions with each and every one of your relatives. I've experienced everything from family members who sneakily fed me dip loaded with bacon grease, to cousins who went out of their way to make sure I had something I would eat, to my immediate family who have always been supportive. I've had people try to serve me butter and eggs, or ask if chicken and fish are okay. I've even had family members assume my veganism was a result of my (Catholic) high school brainwashing me. Remember that when your family voices concerns, they do so because they love you. Gently inform them of your beliefs, and, if they persist, agree to disagree. Remember, you're not going to change everyone's mind all at once, and getting in someone's face, being belligerent, etc. only gives vegans a bad name while doing nothing to further the cause, and ultimately, Thanksgiving is a day for family, friends, and gratitude.

Nothing makes people understand veganism like amazing vegan food, so, if possible, take an amazing vegan dessert to share with everyone. If you can, help prepare the whole dinner. Not only is this great bonding time, but you can try to convert some of the dishes and make them vegan. This can be especially helpful for your hosts who want to accommodate you, but are unsure of what exactly is and isn't in your diet. Some dishes can be easily converted with no loss of flavor, using everyday ingredients available at most stores. For example,you can make vegan dressing/stuffing (use vegetable stock and bake in a dish instead of stuffing the turkey), or vegan mashed potatoes (use Earth Balance or olive oil instead of butter, and soy milk instead of milk). Make sure to pay special attention to the presentation of anything vegan you serve, because your food will be judged. I used to find it helpful to wait until after people had started eating and enjoying a dish before mentioning that it was vegan--although now everyone I know is well aware that I'm vegan.

If you know nothing will be vegan, or are unsure if there will be anything for you to eat, eat ahead of time and/or take a dish you love, to share with others. This is a good general tip for vegans at any event, and it makes any food you find that's accidentally vegan, a happy surprise!

Instead of obsessing about food, relax and enjoy the company. This a good general tip for everyone in any situation. In my experience, it does the most to promote veganism because it shows that vegans can be well-adjusted and social, and that veganism can be easy and fun. In college, both of my roommates became vegetarians after living with me, and they each said something along the lines of, "You showed me it didn't have to be hard (to give up meat)".

On the flip side, don't act like a vegan martyr. By that, I mean the modern common usage of martyr, i.e. someone who is constantly suffering. Being a vegan is a choice made freely, and it's something to be happy about. If you feel deprived or angry about it, you're doing it wrong. Additionally, no one wants to hang out with someone who is down about everything. A few years ago, one of my best (omni) friends, J, met a cute vegan girl and wanted to take her out, but they couldn't get their schedules to align until one night when J was going out to a steakhouse with his friends for a birthday party. The girl repeatedly said she didn't mind going to the steakhouse, and they wanted to hang out with each other sooner rather than later, so the plans were set. As soon as they stepped inside of the steakhouse, the girl loudly declared, "It smells like death in here," and proceeded to make snide comments all evening. Did anyone have a good time that night? Of course not. I'm not saying you should stay mum if you're uncomfortable, but I know I would like to eat without having to defend my choices, and I'm sure my dining companions feel the same way. Since we respect each other, even if we disagree, we can enjoy spending time together.

Guide to a Vegan Vanguard Thanksgiving, Part 2

What Do I Eat, Now That Turkey's Off The Menu?

I remember the panic of my first Thanksgiving. I had been a perfectly content vegetarian for about 4 months, and while I had experienced my share of food disasters, for the most part, I was having a lot of fun learning about nutrition and trying out new foods. Then, a few days before Thanksgiving, something occurred to me: for the first time in my life, I wouldn't be able to join in the family traditions. I wouldn't be eating the turkey, or the gravy, or the giblet stuffing, and I definitely wouldn't be making my family's annual Thanksgiving Jell-o.

As I was only 14 at the time, this was a big moment for me, and I suddenly felt extremely alienated and isolated. Not because I wouldn't be eating turkey, but because I would be breaking one of the few traditions we observed, and I would be the only one doing so. I thought that I would be left out. As it turns out, my mother was great, and set aside stuffing for me without giblets, and the other dishes that couldn't be converted were things I didn't really care for anyway, so I was able to be part of the family and share most of the meal.

What did I eat instead of turkey for my first vegetarian Thanksgiving? I actually don't recall. I think it was some savory tofu dish that seemed daunting at the time, and ended up tasting okay but was generally underwhelming. The point is, the food itself didn't really matter, having my family make an effort on my part was enough to allow me to realize I could never not be a part of the family, and see how loved and accepted I was. I do know that for Christmas that year, and for the all of the Thanksgivings since that I've spent with them, my parents bought me a Tofurky. A whole Tofurky. Just for me. I've always appreciated the sentiment, even if I didn't really enjoy the entrée itself....I rag on it a bit, but it does make things easy, and I know many people who enjoy it immensely.

I actually was never a big fan of turkey on Thanksgiving because it usually came out kind of dry and wasn't particularly flavorful, which may account for why I don't miss turkey and don't care for Tofurky roasts. Give me a variety of delicious side dishes, or even just a plate of dressing and cranberry sauce, and I could be totally happy. I do enjoy the ritual of cooking for days, having a big production leading up to the main event, and then the delicious sedated afterglow, though. Plus, JD, my love, has a healthy appreciation for tradition, so we do a full spread, and we do it right.

I've been away from my family for 8 years now, so I've had some time to work on my Thanksgiving dishes, and I've done many different things for the vegan entrée at my Thanksgiving celebrations. For a few years, I made a simple harvest bake by mixing fall vegetables like celery, onions, sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips in a casserole dish with tempeh or seitan, seasoned it all with soy sauce, garlic, herbs, and wine if I wanted, and baked until everything was tender. I've also made yummy but not especially festive protein dishes like tempeh marsala. One year I tried making a tofu and gluten mock turkey, but it was terrible. I generally enjoy foods more when they're not trying to mimic something exactly, so I should have known better.

Many blogs have compiled great recipes and ideas, some of my favorites include:

Vegan Bits - The link will take you directly to a compilation of holiday recipes, but check out the more recent posts for more Thanksgiving info.

PETA's VegCooking - Tons of recipes, most of which look like they were tailor-made for home cooks with limited time.

Bryanna Clark Grogan
- The vegan food mogul and author offers up recipes for some of the most common holiday dishes. Great info, ideas, and recipes for soy-free vegans.

Karina's Kitchen - Anyone with gluten or wheat allergies will understand why Karina is a Gluten Free Goddess. While it's not a vegetarian or vegan blog, Karina does make sure her vegan readers have plenty of gorgeous recipes to try. In her pre-Thanksgiving post she includes tons of dishes that everyone can enjoy, just make sure click on any recipe that sounds inviting, as many of Karina's recipes have tips or variations for vegans.

101 Cookbooks - Heidi's compiled and organized all of her vegan Thanksgiving recipes, so you don't have to search. She's even separated all of the vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes on another page so everything is simple and easy for her readers. I love Heidi's style because it's simple, elegant, beautiful, and everything starts with quality ingredients.

- Do you remember Now and Zen's UnTurkey? So do the vegans who created this site. They've opensourced the recipe, so you can recreate it in your home.

Finally, there's Field Roast - many people serve the Celebration Roast version, but I'm partial to the Hazelnut Herb Cutlet. The official website also offers recipes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Framboise Lambic Float

I had heard about beer floats and chocolate stout milkshakes and such for a couple of years, and while I was vaguely intrigued, dairy and alcohol seems like a pretty gross combination to me, so vegan ice creams and beers should totally lend themselves to this phenomenon, right?

Lambics are Belgian beers brewed with wild yeasts instead of cultivated brewer's yeast. Some lambics are fermented a second time, with fruit. Lambic tends to have a more sour flavor than most beer. JD is a big fan of Lindeman's Framboise Lambic (which may not be a true lambic?), and we've experimented with mixing different lambics together and to other beers like stouts, to varying success. I have always slightly lamented the fact that no one offered vegan beer floats or milkshakes, but I'd never tried making one myself.

But then a few weeks ago we went to a pub with a friend, and they had a whole list of mixed dessert drinks, and immediatly I was inspired. I knew I had to make a vanilla coconut milk ice cream, and drown it in large amounts of framboise or kriek lambic--raspberry or cherry beer, respectively .

I used a simplified version of my Creme Anglaise recipe as the ice cream base, after running it through the ice cream maker, I froze it overnight so it would be nice and solid. You could use any vegan ice cream, and vanilla would probably be good, but the light coconut vanilla flavor worked really well with the fruit flavor, and coconut milk is creamier and richer, which contrasts the alcohol well.

For the float, I used about 1 part lambic to 1 part coconut milk ice cream. It was so pretty and delicious! The sourness and acidity of the lambic was clear, but played off the creamy sweetness of the coconut milk well.

I also mixed some of the softened ice cream with the lambic, trying to approximate a milkshake. It wasn't quite as pretty, but I liked it a lot more. As a shake, the flavor was almost reminiscent of SweeTTarts, but more grown up.

As I said, JD loves the framboise lambic, and could drink copious amounts of it, but he wasn't a big fan of it as a float...but he doesn't like floats in general, so I think he's got a bias. I say you should definitely try this if you like things that are awesome, delicious, sweet, or boozy.

Edited to add pictures and to say that I think other styles of beer would be good like this. Sam Adams has a Blackberry Witbier that's got a nice, full blackberry flavor, and something like Breckenridge Brewery's Vanilla Porter or Samual Smith's Oatmeal Stout might be nice, too. Something as creamy as an oatmeal stout might even be better with a fruit sorbet.
Have you ever tried an adult float? What was it made with? Did you enjoy it, or think the frozen dessert and alcohol were better on their own?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Product Review: Gardein BBQ Skewers

These skewers are another perfect example of something not being what I was expecting. Based on the picture, I was expecting four separate cubes on each skewer. Instead, each skewer has one long beef-y piece, which was divided into four sections, sort of like a McRib. It wasn't very attractive, and it was kind of difficult to eat.

The texture was interesting and toothsome, and the flavor was really good. I liked the texture and flavor of these more than that of the Beefless Tips, but they were much less photogenic and kind of unwieldy. I ate these with some cooked greens, jasmine rice and peanut sauce, and the peanut sauce worked really well with the flavor of the BBQ skewers.

Straight out of the package they have a light sweet-tangy flavor, that would probably work well with many sauces, including terriyaki. I'm very particular about barbecue sauce, I don't often enjoy it, so I opted not to use more on these, although if you like BBQ sauce, I'm sure they would be good doused in your favorite sauce.

They were good, and I could see myself getting a craving for the meal I made with them, but they weren't amazing, and they're difficult to find.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Iron Chef Challenge #3: Portabello Mushrooms and Chipotle Peppers

I was really excited about the ingredients for this week's Iron Chef challenge, unfortunately I worked all weekend, and didn't have time to experiment.

I ended up doing a variation of a dish I used to make quite often, veggie fajitas, with portabello mushrooms as the main ingredient.

I also used the idea of almond ricotta as the basis for the almond chipotle créma, but I used slightly different ingredients.

I ended up with Portabella Poblano Fajitas with Almond Chipotle Créme.

Basically, I just sautéed the portabellos in olive oil with a little shoyu, then, once they were cooked through, I added garlic, sliced onion, and sliced poblanos. You could use bell peppers instead of, or in addition to, poblanos, but the poblanos give a nice a nice mild bite, and I just enjoy the flavor and brilliant emerald green of poblanos.

I skinned 1/2 cup of almonds, then soaked them overnight, then blended them with ume vinegar, a pinch of smoked sea salt, three chipotles canned in adobo sauce, a teaspoon of agave nectar and just enough water to give me a light, but creamy texture.

I served the fajita mixture in warm corn tortillas with a dollop of chipotle creme and a few slices of avocado. Some scallions or cilantro would have been nice as a garnish, but I was in a big rush, trying to take pics, eat and post before work. My computer was slow, so I (obviously) didn't make it, but I'm still glad I did this challenge.

The fajitas were really good, and I will definitely start making them again. I had originally stopped because JD doesn't like mushrooms, and I usually cook with his tastes in mind, but these are too good and easy to take for granted. I will also add the chipotle créme to my repertoire, because it's a good balance of smoky, salty, spicy and creamy. Yum.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday Sustenance 11-20-2010

As usual, Central Market doesn't have anything in their ad for vegans, but they do have some gorgeous produce. We stopped in yesterday, and they had some new items, including black garlic, beautiful trimmed kohlrabi, huge, vibrant watermelon radishes, the prettiest and tiniest potatoes I've ever seen, the shiniest and darkest purple Peruvian potatoes I've seen, a delicate Maldon smoked sea salt, Soyatoo aerosol vegan whip in both soy and rice varieties(but not the kind in aseptic containers), and one beer I've heard good things about; Abita's Pecan Harvest. Unfortunately they were out of the one thing I needed.

Natural Grocers still has everything I posted about last week on sale still. I can't believe I haven't made it yet to stock up on Chocolove.

This week, Newflower has:
jewel and garnet yams, $0.48/lb
green beans, $0.88/lb
broccoli $0.88/lb
12 oz. cranberries, 2 for $4
turnip greens, collard greens, mustard green or kale, $0.88 each
organic Rome or braeburn apples, $0.99/lb
organic avocados, $0.99 each
organic winter squash, $0.99/lb
7.5 oz. organic cranberries, $3.99
organic bunched beets or green top carrots, 2 for $3
1.5 lb. bag organic fingerling potatoes, $2.99
bulk wild rice, $6.99/lb
bulk whole wheat flour, 2 lbs for $1
walnuts, $3.99/lb

Sprouts has:
12 oz. cranberries, 2 for $4
sweet potatoes, $0.49/lb.
red bell peppers, $0.77 each
organic d'anjou pears, $0.99/lb.
organic celery, $0.88 each
organic Fuji or gala apples, $0.99/lb.
prepackaged pitted dates, $2.49/lb.

Sun Harvest has:
10 lb. bag russet potatoes, $1.47 each
green beans, $0.97/lb
butternut squash, 2 lbs. for $1
sweet potatoes, 2 lbs. for $1
curly or Italian parsley, 3 for $1
green onions, 3 for $1
red radishes, 3 for $1
3 lb bag Cuties clementines, $3.88
12 oz. cranberries, 2 for $4
3 lb. bag organic granny smith apples, 2 for $5
organic d'anjou pears, $0.88/lb.
26 oz. Tofurky roast, $9.99

I haven't decided on our Thanksgiving menu yet, but I'm thinking some kind of seitan, maybe small rice pilaf-stuffed seitan roasts. Green beans. Cranberry, walnut, and fig cornbread dressing. Cranberry sauce. Some kind of potato, possibly a twice-baked potato, or some of the beautiful tiny/colorful/fingerling potatoes that seem to be everywhere right now. Maybe sweet creamed corn or velvety corn soup. Sweet potato pie and Kentucky bourbon pie.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Madeline's Mocheesi Sticks

I have been super excited about posting this recipe all month! I just had to wait until I had mochi to make it.

Mocheesi Sticks are the invention of my amazing, incredibly talented friend, Madeline Pizzo. She developed her original recipe as her final project for The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts. She very graciously gave me permission to post my version here. Madeline is truly awesome, and she even has a vegan brownie named after her!

The individual steps for this recipe are all easy, but the recipe does contain a few steps, and it can be a bit time consuming.

Madeline, and her mochi mozzarella sticks singlehandedly converted me from being staunchly anti nooch, toward a (reserved)pro nutritional yeast stance.

I love this version of vegan mozzarella sticks because, while it is a fried food, it is mostly comprised of a whole and minimally refined ingredient. Especially for a cheese alternative. Mochi is traditionally made of cooked sweet brown rice that is pounded, then dried in cakes.

Madeline's Mocheesi Sticks

4 cups water
2 tablespoons umeboshi vinegar

1 cup panko
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 package Grainaissance plain mochi

safflower or sunflower oil for frying

In a 2 quart saucepan, heat water and umeboshi vinegar to a rolling boil.

While waiting for water to come to a boil, make seasoned breadcrumbs: combine panko, flour, nutritional yeast, sea salt, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried basil, and paprika in a wide but shallow bowl, like a pie plate or a baking dish. Mix well and set aside for now.

Cut mochi into sticks that are approximately 1/2" x 1/2" x 3".

Add 4 or 5 pieces of mochi to the boiling water at a time, and cook until mochi softens slightly. Mochi should still retain its shape. Pull each piece of mochi out of water and gently roll in seasoned panko, then lay on a flat surface, like a cutting board. Repeat until all mochi sticks are covered in panko.

Heat 1/2" of oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once oil is hot, carefully add mochi sticks in a single layer, and fry, turning once so all sides are golden brown. Do not cook too long, or mochi will melt too much and gush out of breading. You will probably need to fry in two or three batches.

Drain mochi sticks on paper towels. and allow to cool slightly.

Serve sticks warm with a tangy dip, like marinara or sun dried tomato pesto.

Mocheesi sticks will be molten, with a consistancy like melted cheese, so be careful.

Umeboshi vinegar is not actually a vinegar, it's a brining liquid. It's very salty and sour, and helps give a cheesy bite to the mochi. The nutritional yeast completes the cheesy flavor.

The step of boiling the mochi is important because it helps soften the mochi, flavor it, and gives it enough moisture to bind to the breading.

Plain mochi is very bland, so the seasonings are important and add layers of flavor.

Panko is a Japanese style breadcrumb that helps fried foods stay crunchy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Grump Cakes

At the beginning of the year, one of my students brought me a test sample of a vegan crab cake she had made. The texture was amazing and super flaky, though she hadn't quite gotten the flavor where she wanted it. She had had an ingenious idea to use one of my favorite vegetables as the basis for her cakes. It was so simple and yet totally inspired. It prompted a long conversation about crab and crab cakes. She is from Maryland, and grew up with crab, but I've never had real crab, or even artificial krab made from fish. I always assumed crab cakes were very firm and dense, but apparently I was wrong.

Our conversation stuck with me, and a few months later, when I had some thawed frozen tofu I needed to use, I decided to try making a vegan patty and seasoning it with Old Bay. This is NOT what my student used. Her vegan crab cakes were completely different, but she did inspire me to try my hand at making something similar.

I think these grump cakes have quickly become a favorite for us, though I haven't quite figured out the best way to serve them. Leftover grump cakes are nice in pita pockets with plenty of lettuce.

I really enjoy the texture that masa harina gives grump cakes. I tried a batch using all purpose white flour, and it just tasted like raw flour. It also made the dough gummy, and I had to add a lot of flour. The masa soaks up a lot of liquid, and adds a sort of roasted flavor. Make sure to use masa harina and not cornmeal, or cornflour.

JD is usually a staunch advocate of calling a spade a spade. When I make a vegan cheesecake and offer a piece to someone, he is always quick to point out that it's not real cheesecake, even though most people who know me know I don't eat or cook with animal products. So I was surprised when JD asked why I called these "Grump Cakes"( "Because they're not crabby.") instead of crab cakes or krabby patties.

Grump Cakes
by Christina Terriquez

1 lb firm tofu, frozen, then defrosted, liquid squeezed out
1/4 medium beet, optional
1--2 medium carrots
1/2 medium onion
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4" slices
1/4 cup walnuts
masa harina
Old Bay seasoning
panko, optional
safflower or sunflower oil for frying

Crumble tofu and process it in food processor. Set tofu aside in a bowl.

Process beet, carrots, onion and celery, until all vegetables are minced. Add walnuts and process once more.

Combine vegetables with tofu and mix well. Add 1/4 cup of masa harina and 2 teaspoons of Old Bay and mix. Adjust seasoning to taste. Add masa harina until mixture can easily be rolled into balls and hold their shape. Mixture should be slightly sticky.

Roll tofu mixture into golf ball sized balls, then coat in panko or additional masa harina. Flatten balls into 2" diameter circles, and gentle pat to remove excess masa harina or panko.

Heat 1/2" of oil in the bottom of a heavy pan over medium heat. When oil is hot, fry grump cakes for approximately 90 seconds on each side, or until golden brown.

The beet is optional, but I love the color and sweetness that it adds. If you'd like your grump cakes to be a lighter shade of pink, add less beet.

I really pulverized the tofu for this particular batch, but you can keep it slightly bigger pieces if you like, that why you process it first.

We like the texture and flavor of 1/4" pieces of walnut studded throughout the grump cakes. If you or your family does not, you can process the walnuts more. Try adding the walnuts and pulsing them with the vegetables. You could also omit the walnuts completely if you have a nut allergy.

Panko will make the outside crunchier, but masa harina will keep these gluten-free.

Skip the Old Bay seasoning and flavor these with your favorite seasonings, herbs or spices. Smoked salt or smoked paprika might be a nice addition.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Restaurant Review: Biscuits and Groovy

When I first about Biscuits and Groovy, I was super happy, because JD loves B&G! I thought it would be fun to get a little brunch one morning, and I figured he would love it. Unfortunately, JD is usually not hungry in the mornings, and I had heard that you need to make sure to arrive well before the posted closing time of 2pm, to make sure they still had food. This is a problem, because it's usually hard to get him out of bed before 2 on the weekends, much less out of the house.

But, one Saturday, we got up and made the trek--we live south...VERY south, and most of the time, I don't even cross the river. The trailer is super cute, and the owner/operator is very friendly and welcoming. He does offer lots of vegan options, but not everything is vegan, so do ask! I got a basic plate of biscuits and gravy with bootlegger brown ale gravy, tempeh sausage, while JD got the same, but with buttermilk gravy.

The biscuits were super soft and airy. They soft of reminded me of KFC biscuits, but much lighter and softer. I loved them! I don't know how he got that texture, but it was great! It would probably be amazing as a dumpling. I'm a Rocky Mountain girl, not a southern girl, so biscuits and gravy weren't something I grew up with, and I don't think I'd ever had any until I became vegan, or at least ovo lacto. Most of the biscuit part of B&G that I've had, have been heavy, dense, or hard. I don't often order B&G, though, and my gravy of choice is mushroom gravy(proper B&G gravy is cream gravy).

The tempeh sausage was good, but I was expecting something a little bit greasier. It was crumbled, and gave a nice texture, though Icouldn't really detect much of a flavor.

Biscuits and Groovy distinguishes itself by offering a vegan Bootlegger Brown Ale gravy. This sounds awesome, since, in general, cooking with alcohol yields fantastic results. However, I'm not really a fan of drinking Bootlegger Brown Ale, and you could really taste it in the gravy. If you like this ale, you'll love this gravy. The combination of sweet brown ale gravy, lots of pepper, and crisp green onions, did work really well together, so I'd actually probably ask for more green onions next time.

Overall, the basic B&G here is somehow both light and filling. This is quite a feat, and I'm anxious to try go again and try something else!

Biscuits and Groovy offers many biscuits combos, and I've heard good things about the vegan Donna Summer (biscuits, gravy, tofu scramble, cheddar). I'd also really like to try the Bee Gee (biscuit with EB and jam), because I loved the biscuits so much, but usually like a little more sweetness for breakfast. The M.C. Hammer also sounds good (biscuits, tofu scramble, tempeh sausage or fake bacon for $1 more, and cheddar). Apparently the other menu items are amazing, but they were not available when we stopped by. Of those, I'd most like to try the stuffed French toast, pancakes and the Philly cheese steak.

The owner, John seems to put a lot of heart into this trailer and seems very open to suggestions, like hosting meetups outside of their regular hours. He also seems to change up the menu pretty regularly, which can be both good and bad: will the sandwiches come back? Will the French toast stay?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Whole Food Dishes: Nishime Style Vegetables

Nishime style cooking is a very comforting, relaxing way to cook. It's basically a Japanese slow braising technique that uses very little water, and increases the nutritional value by adding the sea vegetable kombu, or kelp.

Typically, items are cooked in odd numbers as odd numbers are considered more harmonious in macrobiotics, though you can, of course, cook two or four (or however many you'd like) vegetables at a time.

You start by soaking a piece of kombu in a small amount of water. This kombu will get slightly gelatinous, and help prevent the vegetables from sticking or burning. Next, you carefully arrange the vegetables in a heavy pot with a snug or heavy lid, taking note to use vegetables that have similar densities, or cutting the vegetables into sizes appropriate so that will all cook for the same amount of time. Next, you season and simmer over low, even heat, until everything is tender.

There are two schools of thought on how to arrange the vegetables. Personally, I like arranging them in vertical wedges, so that each third of the pot is filled with one vegetable. Some people prefer to layer the vegetables, with the most dense on the bottom, and the lightest on the top, or vice versa, but I feel that makes the vegetables on the bottom taste like the vegetables on top.

Part of the idea behind this style of slow cooking, is that you start with a very small amount of water, because you want don't want to dilute the vegetables' natural flavor. You're also trying to slowly draw the liquid out of the vegetables, and concentrate the flavor. You'll be amazed by how much liquid accumulates, and how sweet the end result is, especially if you start with vegetable that aren't typically though of as sweet.

One of my favorite types of nishime, this recipe includes mochi, which adds a satisfying richness. The mochi melts all over the cauliflower, which plays the perfect foil, with all of its nooks and crannies. All three of the vegetables are pungent or slightly peppery when raw, but become sweet and creamy when cooked in this way.
Winter White Nishime
by Christina Terriquez

2 square inches kombu
1 daikon radishes
1 medium or large white onion
1/4 head of cauliflower
sea salt
plain brown rice mochi

Place 1/2" of water in a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. Place kombu in water for at least 10 minutes to soften.

Cut diakon into 1 1/2" rounds, or 1 1/2" diagonals and set aside. Cut onion into 1/2 inch thick wedges, making sure to root end intact so wedges stay whole. Cut cauliflower into large florettes and set aside.

Once kombu is soft, remove it from water, and cut into 1/2" squares. Spread kombu squares out over bottom of cooking pot.

Carefully place daikon in a mound on one side of the pan. Add onion wedges next to daikon, leaving a vertical 1/3 space free. Carefully arrange cauliflower florettes in the remaining space, so that the top of each florette is pointing up. This is important so that the mochi can melt over the top of each florette.

Sprinkle a large pinch of sea salt over all of the vegetables and cook over low heat for 15 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking, carefully slice the mochi into 1/4" thick slices, no bigger than 2"x2". After the vegetables have cooked for 15 minutes, carefully place the mochi slices over the cauliflower. Allow to simmer for 15 more minutes.

After a total of 30 minutes, sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of shoyu over the vegetables. Simmer for 5 more minutes or until tender.

This style of cooking is best during the fall and winter, since it takes a long time, and works best with the dense, hearty vegetables that are in season during the winter. But it is possible to use vegetables like zucchini and celery.

Try omitting the mochi.

Other vegetables that work well include: turnip, rutabaga, any winter squash or pumpkin, carrots, lotus root.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Product Review: Gardein Burgundy Trio

When I first saw the Burgundy Trio, I thought it was too good to be true. All of the trios are billed as a complete 3 minute meal, with one of their protein products, rice and veggies. There's no way you could go wrong with a wine based sauce, vegetables and basmati rice, right?

Imagine my surprise when I opened it and only saw four or five very small cubes of carrot and a few pieces of mushroom. I suppose it's my own fault, because if I had paid more attention to the ingredients, I would have seen that all of the "vegetables" in this "meal" are listed as being part of the sauce. There's no way I would consider this a complete meal.

The biggest problem is that the language they used set my expectations way too high, and being let down so much colored my opinion. Which is a big shame, because I did enjoy the sauce with the rice. The basmati was fragrant, perfectly cooked, with that light, creamy, floral flavor, and the acid in the burgundy sauce balanced it nicely. I really think the rice is the shining star of this "meal". I don't really recall the flavor or texture of the beefless tips themselves, so I assume they were okay, but not great. Which, when I think about it is kind of weird, since the beefless tips are the main Gardein ingredient in this product.....

Honestly, I would only buy this again if I couldn't find anything else vegan, or if I was out of town. It would probably be a tasty and healthy meal if it was paired with a salad, or some blanched or steamed greens like broccoli, kale, or asparagus. It is high pretty high in sodium for something so....let's just say, delicately flavored, so keep that in mind if you're watching your sodium intake.

ETA: I wrote this post(and a stash of a few others) before Vegan MoFo started so that I would have back ups, in case I ran out of time-or inspiration--on any given day. Good thing I did, because today I'm pretty rushed, I just wanted to note that Julia at Snarky Vegan did a great and eerily similar post about these last week.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Vegan MoFo Iron Chef Challenge Week 2: Quinoa!

This week's Vegan MoFo Iron Chef Challenge item was another ingredient that I am very familiar with, quinoa. I love quinoa, and I use it a lot, especially in the summertime, when its quick cooking time is particularly nice.

My mind immediately went to some of my typical quinoa dishes, like gluten-free cake or cupcakes, a timbale of quinoa and fall vegetables, a quinoa salad, or a pie with a gluten free quinoa crust. I actually had a really hard time trying to figure out what to do for this week's challenge, because I wanted to make something that I hadn't made before that was, well, challenging, but I've used it so often, and for many different types of things, I was kind of stuck into my routine way of thinking.

I ended up making a lot of quinoa in case things didn't work out......it's a really good thing I did. I thought about trying scones, but I wasn't in the mood for scones. I thought about trying to make a custard with quinoa, but that didn't strike my fancy, either. Finally, it hit me, pancakes! Pancakes are perfect for Sunday morning brunch. And I thought I could do it pretty successfully.

First, I scoured my quinoa really well and rinsed it until the water ran clear. Then I dry toasted it in a plain cast iron skillet. Then I boiled it. This made some perfect quinoa. the kind of perfect quinoa that would great as is or in a really simple grain salad. but I had bigger plans for it.

Once it was cooked, I chilled it overnight. This morning, I blended the cooked quinoa with some soymilk, a touch of sweetener, and some baking powder. The batter tasted great, with no bitter bite, but I could still see some whole grains. Oh well, I figured, it might give the pancakes some body and texture.

The first pancake looked perfect and beautiful, with a perfect, golden brown skin on one side, and it flipped nicely, too. I should have known better. I couldn't get the second side off the skillet. And for the next 4 attempts, I couldn't even get the first side off. I tried letting my skillet cool, I tried oiling it between each side, I tried cleaning the spatula between each flip (really a necessity, because they were sticking like crazy) but nothing was working. The bits that I could pry off tasted good, like a buttery skillet cake, with a soft, barely-cooked center, and a crisp, outside.

So I decided this batter would just not work. I thought at first that it was just too much sweetener. I added a little white spelt flour. This helped. The pancakes where sticking like mad, but if I could turn them, they came out okay. I ended up with a bunch of little crushed looking wads of dough.

The third batch is on the left. See how fluffy and cute they are? The ones on the right are the second batch. Super buttery and eggy, but very flat and sticky. Also, batch #2 isn't pretty.

The third batch was the charm. I realized that the batter needed a binder. I added some flax seeds, a little more water, more white spelt flour, and a little bit of lemon zest. As soon as the first pancake hit the skillet, I could tell that this batch would be good. I immediately saw the telltale bubbles coming to the surface. Then, I tried to flip it....no resistance! It worked! As soon as it was flipped, it puffed up even more. It was already about twice as fat as my first two batches, but now it was about four times as tall. I cooked the rest of the batter, and tasted them. They were good!

The third batch did deflate a bit after it cooled, but they look like perfect little pancakes. Add syrup, and you can clearly see why the word "cake" is a part of their name. The second side got super bubbly while the first side cooked, and when you pour on the syrup, the tiny little holes make each pancake a sponge for syrup, which they completely soak up.

Quinoa pancakes, drenched in raspberry syrup.

The flavor is amazing when the pancakes are hot; the quinoa lends a buttery flavor, and an eggy texture, which I've never had in any pastry since I've been vegan. The taste does change a bit when they cool, though. I've been eating as I type this, and the pancakes are starting to taste like more robust cooked grains, like rye or something. I would definitely try this again if I made too much quinoa and had leftovers, but I probably wouldn't make quinoa just to make pancakes.

For the rest of my brunch, I made garlic sautéed spinach, sausage-style tempeh, and rosemary sweet potato hash. It was heavenly.