Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chili Vs. Chile

I often wander through my recipe writing and food writing using the terms chili and chile interchangeably and without much thought. Recently I was asked about the proper usage. Improper use of grammar is not uncommon for me at times. I find this quite amusing, because grammatical errors bug me when I discover them. So to clear things up for me and those who are also curious I bring you the definitative answer from that source of sources: Wikipedia!

Chili - generally refers to to a thick stew or soup prepared with beans and meat.
Chile - refers to peppers grown in a region.

The interesting thing about Wiki's description is that right after this declaration they list chili rellenos (stuffed chiles) spelled with an I? So the debate continues.

My organized Virgo-ness would like to have a definitive answer. But my Gemini moon loves that we can still morph the spelling to fit our ever changing minds. So my friends, the moral of the story is that there is a rule written in mud. Just enjoy your chiles, chilis! Take care of the taste buds and let an English professor worry about the spelling.

Here is Fred's awesome Chili with a chile (jalapeno) swimming in it.

Some Jalapeno Chiles growing in our garden

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Men Who Cook Wrap Up 2010

The testosterone set has spoken and the results are delicious! I'm going to warn you. There are lots of pictures, because I love pictures and I really loved these pictures!!

In no particular order I bring you the boyz of September! Well I guess there is a particular order. It is the order in which I received the entries.

First we have Jim. Jim really embodied the spirit of Men Who Cook by attacking this challenge with gusto and creativity. Plus look how much fun he had. Jim is the partner in crime of Tami Noyes (famed author of American Vegan Kitchen and Vegan Appetite Blog). I had the pleasure of meeting Jim in Chicago this summer. He is a food lover after my own heart and a hell of a lot of fun as you can see by the pictures!

Here is Jim's creation - Smoked Mexican Tofu with Tomato Stuff and Grilled Apple and Jalapeno Relish Chutney Topping Check out this post at Vegan Appetite for more details and descriptions.

The grillin' magician 

Voila success

Bobby Flay - eat your heart out.

Next up is ppknut's honey. He went all rogue in the pantry. He created a soup from what he had on hand. This is awesome. How many of us do this on a regular basis? I bring you I need to go shopping Lentil Noodle Soup! (1)

Here we have Wes's entries. As many of us, he is one busy guy. While he didn't have time to cook up anything this week, he shot me a link to some of the fantastic things he's been making. Check out his flickr set! Holy cow! This Man CAN cook! Seriously folks DONUTS!!! (2)

The next Man Who Can Cook (and also have a lot of fun doing it, I might add) is Quinn. Quinn not only made several things, he got all musical while waiting for his delicious creations to be done. From Quinn: "OH, and I forgot to mention that I made up my own recipe! That's rather important, isn't it? It's a chickpea, pigeon pea and black eyed pea salad with mango dressing." (3)

He made the Banana Rabanada from Vegan Brunch...and this is what he did to keep himself occupied while it was cooking! It was all he could do to wait for the sweet yumminess to hit his lips. OK his description was much more amusing than mine, but somehow I deleted his e-mail before I could quote his awesomeness. Sorry Quinn!

He also got down with this yummy tofu salad sammy and a refreshing cucumber drink.

Was it all delicious? Why yes, yes it was.

Next up is my honey Phat Freddy. Fred is an excellent cook, but he sometimes has a hard time letting go and going for it. He seemed to get over this last night! I woke up at 2am to the most wonderful smells filling the house. It tastes as good as it smells!

I'll share the recipe here with you. I'm going to post it as he wrote it with some little notes of my own. Sorry honey, I am a food control freak.

Freddy's Tomatoey Manly Meatless Chili

12 oz vegan chorizo
2 tbsp canola oil

28 oz. fire roasted whole tomatoes.
28 oz. fire roasted diced tomatoes.
15 oz. black beans
15 oz. kidney beans
15 oz. pinto beans
3 cups V-8
1 tbsp  vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 stalk celery
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp fresh med. chopped oregano
2 tbsp regular chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
4 pasilla peppers, seeded and deviened and finely chopped(for a little more heat leave seeds and veins in one)
9 medium jalapenos, leave 'em whole
4 medium yukon gold potatoes, diced in 1 inch chunks
1/2 cup tequila

Start browning the chorizo in a cast iron skillet with the canola oil and set aside when done. The chorizo will fall apart but it is more for taste, not texture. Put everything else in a big pot in the order stated as the sauce can be warming while you are measuring spices, ( unless you are a mis en place fanatic like I am). I like all of the taste of the onions by not sauteing them ahead of time, it helps offset the sweetness of all of the tomato products. Bring to boil and simmer for 20 min. Add chorizo,whole jalapenos, potatoes, and tequila, simmer another 20 min approximately. The guide here is you want your potatoes a little under cooked as it is going to set another 20, min. cooling before you serve and they will cook a little more then. If you want a little more heat, when dishing up just scoop up one of the jalapenos and break it up in your bowl*. If the heat is good for you leave them in the pot. This is a great chili for the day after a hard night with the veggies and capsicum present. It is man friendly as we like to hear "just through it in the pot and cook it" with only 3 steps of cooking and adding. It is chunky with a few tomatoes and jalapenos to cut, another man thing. I guess I should call it testosterone chili.

* I found this a little stroke of genius, plus the whole jalapenos look pretty cool in the pot. Apparently chunky/rustic = manly. I did not know this.

Here we see a bowl with Mr. Jalapeno sticking out. 

Freddy really loves his hot peppers.

I want to thank all of those who participated in the contest. It was so much fun to see what you created! 

Now for the big moment. Those who submitted food entries were included in the drawing. There were two exceptions: The two fine gents who are related to the originator of the contest and the author of the prize are not eligible but very loved! I used a random number generator from, using the numbers assigned above the winner of the fabulous American Vegan Kitchen cookbook is...........

#3 Quinn! Congratulations!!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Restaurant Review - Pomegranate Cafe

I had been hearing rumors about this cute little cafe in Ahwatukee that was serving fresh, organic, and vegan friendly fare. This combination is almost unheard of in the East Valley, so I knew I had to check it out. I have to admit, Rikki Cupcake's (Seitanic Vegan Heathen) review reminded me that I hadn't ventured over yet. Pomegranate Cafe is located on the Southeast corner of Chandler Blvd. and 40th Street in Ahwatukee. They are just south of Trader Joe's in the same plaza. Entering the cafe, I noticed that there was a cooler with organic veggies and fruits on display. There are also some wonderful house made desserts and pastries on display at the counter. The dining area is small, but open and airy feeling. It does not feel cramped at all. In the back there is a counter with condiments and self serve water with fresh fruit floating in it, which I found a very nice touch.

They have three separate menus. The first is their drink menu. It was great to have so many choices. They offer fresh organic juices, smoothies, coffee drinks, and elixirs (which are herbal combinations). The second menu is the breakfast menu. The breakfast menu has both sweet and savory selections as well as side items that can be ordered a la carte. Lunch offered a variety of salads, sandwiches, wraps, plates, bowls, and even a kids menu. Each day they have specials available as well. 

My first trip in was for lunch. A few of my BFF's and I were meeting for my birthday lunch. The beautiful thing about this is that when it is your celebration, you get to pick the spot. My friends are definitely meat eaters and one is a very picky one at that. I like to expand their horizons and continually show them that vegetarian fare is delicious, fun, and plentiful. It took us a while to look through all of the menus. The specials looked wonderful as well. After much deliberation, we went up to the counter to order. The staff was very friendly and willing to answer all of our questions happily. 

We decided to order a Gratitude Smoothie to hold us over while we made our lunch decisions. The gratitude is a combination of raspberries, goji berries, strawberries and pomegranate juice. Many of their items contain pomegranate juice for obvious reasons. I loved this smoothie. Usually smoothies are far too sweet for my taste. This one was not overpoweringly sweet and pleasantly tart. 

After carefully considering my choices, I decided to order the special of the Soft Summer Tacos. The tacos were generously stuffed with quinoa, black beans, fresh summer veggies (peppers, zucchini, onions), vegan cheese with a fresh salsa on the side. They were served with a very colorful and fresh mixed green salad, fresh fruit, and blue corn chips. The tacos were huge. The tortilla was light and a perfect texture to allow the fillings to shine through. The salad was super fresh and wonderful. I'm very particular about tortilla chips and found these a bit lifeless compared to the rest of the plate. The salsa was pretty mild, but very fresh tasting.

My sister ordered the Buddah's Delight Bowl. This was a fantastic little bowl. She is not one to eat a lot of tofu, but was delighted to find that the tofu was perfectly prepared. It was slightly crispy on the outside and had a slightly chewy texture. The combination of the crispy tofu, the flavorful hummus, kale, and avocado were a big winner. I know I'm going to have to order this one again because I only got to try a little bit of hers.

My very non-veg girlfriend ordered the Smoking BLT. She is a hard core bacon purist, so she didn't appreciate the smoky tempeh so much. She did say that because she was expecting actual bacon for some reason, that this took her by surprise. She's never had tempeh. Sometimes I think this is an acquired taste. I, however, capitalized on this and got to eat her tempeh bacon! It was fantastic. Tempeh can often have a bitter edge to it. This was perfectly prepared with no bitterness and a wonderful smoky flavor. I gobbled it up. She loved the rest of the sandwich. The miso mayo is a nice change from just plain ol' mayo. The bread was perfectly toasted. Another one I am going to have to go back and have all by myself.

My third friend ordered a non-vegan version of the avocado sandwich. She said it was very good. I won't go into detail here, because after all this is a vegan food blog. But it is worth mentioning that the egg dishes are all organic an you can safely bring non-tofu eaters here for a delicious meal.

Because I was the guest of honor and I wanted to try as many things as possible for this write-up. I insisted we try not one, but two desserts. We ordered the raw berry cashew cheesecake (I'm not sure it that name is correct) and the Chocolate Pomegranate Cake. OK folks, I am a chocolate snob. For years when we'd do our girlie foodie dining expeditions I ordered exclusively chocolate desserts. I have to say that this is possibly one of the best chocolate cakes I've had. My girlfriend was shocked that I would rave so much about something chocolate that was "adulterated" with any kind of fruit. But they have a great formula here. The pomegranate is so subtle and the cake so moist, it was truly hard to share.

The cheesecake was delicious as well, but admittedly was overshadowed by my love for the chocolate cake. The crust was moist and tasty. The filling was a bit soft, but the berry flavors were wonderful. The goji berry garnish was pretty, but the flavor of gojis is very distinctive. I love them, but others may not. But heck, they can just pick them off the top. The color is beautiful.

I knew this place would be a big hit with Phat Freddie and I also know I must go back and try breakfast. The cafe did not disappoint. We started off with one of their elixers, the Illumination. I love the presentation! The elixers are served in a champagne flute on a little plate that is garnished with fresh berries and...wait for it...dark chocolate. Fred is lucky he got any of it! I loved the light effervescence and slight tartness of the elixer. Dark chocolate and berries...what can I say? To add to the vegan excitement, they offer VEGAN lattes and capps, with a choice of several different non-dairly milks.

I didn't get pictures of our food today because we stopped in unexpectedly. Fred ordered the Maple Walnut Granola. I didn't detect any walnuts but there were pepitas present. I love pepitas. The granola itself was very tasty. Cassie, the owner, mentioned that there was a hint of cardamom in the granola. Cardamom can sometimes be overpowering, but it was very subtle here. The granola was so good! It was served with a ridiculous amount of fresh strawberries and the perfect amount of soy yogurt. 

I got the Lumberjack Sandwich. This sandwich is available in a vegan or non-vegan version. I obviously chose the vegan version. Like the BLT, this sandwich had the awesome tempeh bacon on it. It also had seasoned tofu, avocado, vegan cheese, and tomato. Fred and I shared both. I don't know if he noticed, but I was jealously staring at that sandwich as it disappeared into his mouth. So hard to share such good eats, even with someone you love! 

The first visit the food was very slow to come out. While the service was a bit slow, the staff was wonderful. The second visit the food came out quickly. The moral of the story here is that sometimes you have to wait a bit when you get such fresh and made to order food. Especially during busy times. It is well worth the wait. 

I am thrilled there is such a wonderful, fresh, welcoming, charming, vegan-friendly place so close to home. They try to use as much local produce as possible, which makes my little heart happy. For those of you who aren't in the Ahwatukee area, it is worth taking a trip down the I-10 to check it out. They are open for breakfast and lunch and closed on Mondays.

Pomegranate Cafe
4025 East Chandler Boulevard, Phoenix, AZ 85048(480) 706-7472

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Taking on the Vcon Part 11 - Potato Kale Enchiladas and Giveaway Reminder

Yes I am a pain! But I want to remind all the men folk out there that you have a few more days to get in on the 2010 Men Who Cook Challenge. It is a fun way to show of your manliness. Real men cook...'nuff said? Anyhoooose. Click here to get more details and submit your entries no later then September 7th.

On to the Vcon the challenge to take on one of the most awesome vegan cookbooks you can have on your shelf Veganomicon. Our mission is simple. Show you the awesome goodness that can come out of your very own kitchen. This week I am cheating. First off, I'm almost a week late, but there are tasty reasons that  I will share later on with you fair readers. I have made these enchiladas many times with rave reviews from my family and friends. They gobble them up. The sauce is sublime, the filling...well it's very filling not to mention wonderful in texture and flavor. I always love when you can sneak in the kale without people turning their nose up...even the kiddies like this one! It takes a bit of time to put it all together, but you can save a bit of time by making the sauce up ahead of time. So worth the time and effort. This one is great for cooking for a crowd too!

This shot is from our Day Before Thanksgiving Mexican Fiesta last year.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Food Network Friday - Tyler Florence's Double Dipped Fried "Chicken"

We're at it again. Once again another Food Network Friday is upon us. Tami at Vegan Appetite is once again hosting and posting various interpretations of an American classic!

I've been really excited about Food Network's new show The Great Food Truck Race hosted by Tyler Florence. Coincidentally, I have had a wicked craving for one of my pre-veg closet addictions, fried chicken. I love that crunchy crust and oh so tender and delicious inside of fried chicken. Of course by this point in my veg journey, I'm certain chicken would gross me out. To satisfy my craving and to pay homage to Mr. Florence, I selected this month's FNF recipe. We're trying our hands at veganizing his Double Dipped Fried Chicken recipe. I did have to take a few liberties...well probably more than a come up with what I have to say is a crazy, crunchy, tasty, delicious version. 

Double Dipped Fried Seitan

Makes 6 Cutlets

6 chicken style seitan cutlets
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
1 1/4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Louisiana Hot Saue
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Canola oil for frying - 1 - 1 /2 inches deep in a 12" iron skillet

I recommend using simmered seitan cutlets here to get the right texture. Make sure they are drained and patted dry of excess liquid. Combine soy milk and apple cider vinegar together. Let sit 10 minutes to curdle. In a shallow baking dish (I used an 8x8), combine soy milk mixture and hot sauce. Let seitan cutlets soak in liquid about 5 minutes per side. 

In a shallow bowl combine flour, panko crumbs and remaining dry ingredients. 

Set up your breading station like so:

Dip the cutlets in the flour mixture and make sure they are coated with breading. Then dip the cutlets in soy milk mixture again and re-dip in flour mixture again. Let coated cutlets sit for another 10 minutes to let liquid dry out just a touch. This will help coating stay on in the oil.

Make sure your oil is heated to about 350. You don't want it too hot or too cold or you won't get that perfect, crunchy coating. Gently and carefully add the cutlets to the hot oil. Do three at a time so you won't overcrowd the pan. Fry on each side until golden brown. It should take somewhere around 5 minutes per side. Remove cutlets and drain on paper towel lined dish. Fry remaining 3 cutlets. These can be served right away. I just ate a cold cutlet. Oh man are these good!!! Total picnic food. Nomnomnomnom. I actually think these are better than the non vegan version I used to love.

You're going to get two different shots of these, because they were so beautiful, they almost brought a tear to my eye.

I decided to make it a completely Tyler Florence influenced dinner. I made a slightly healthier version of his Horseradish and Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes. I halved the recipe, used 1/2 the amount of sour cream called for. The potatoes were simmered in leftover seitan broth. This allowed me to cut back on the amount of Earth Balance by 1/2 as well. Dang these were good. I loved the horseradish kick. Very easy and really good results. 

Fred was in charge of making Tyler's Green Beans with Caramelized Onions and Almonds. The only changes we really had to make is substituting Earth Balance for butter. We used peeled sliced almonds because that was what we had on hand. I could have eaten a whole giant bowl of these. The sweetness of the caramelized onions and the nutty flavor of the toasted almonds was outrageously good. I'm going to be making this again for sure. Actually all three of these recipes are keepers. OK folks, I'm going to go hide somewhere and eat the rest of the pan. Burp! Happy Friday!!!

Don't forget about the Men Who Cook Challenge and Giveaway!
You have until September 7th to get in on the fun. 

For details on how you can win your free copy of 
American Vegan Kitchen