Sunday, January 30, 2011

PPK Cookbook Challenge - Week 3 - Urban Vegan

This week's challenge was from Urban Vegan by Dynise Balcavage. I had heard and seen some things from this book on the PPK, but this is a new book for me. So I havne't had much time to get to know it intimately yet. In the introduction Dynise gives a nice background on her love of urban life and many things foodie. It makes me want to travel with her and hang out with her. She makes the reader feel comfortable with shaking things up in the kitchen with her recipes. She provides a nice reference for substitutions and a great list for stocking your pantry. The one things I really like is that she reminds the reader that it is best to enjoy foods for what they are, no what you are pretending they should be (e.g. mock meats). She also provides handy icons for low-fat, fast, omni friendly, frugal and kid-friendly dishes. It makes things much easier to navigate if you have specific needs for your recipes.

I had a very hard time selecting my recipes this week, because many of them looked so interesting. I have been a little limited by my quest to lose some weight and quite a few of the recipes were a bit on the calorie dense side (not that there is anything wrong with that). What ultimately guided my decisions this week ended up being what I had in the pantry or fridge. In the spirit of being time savvy I did not want to make another trek to the store.

There is no doubt I have been on a bit of a soup kick. Soups are so comforting and easy to take to work. I love the many flavor, textures and combinations you can stuff into a big ol' pot of soup. But mostly, I know that in another couple of months the desert heat will make eating soup much less appealing. So I'm trying to make things during the winter that would make me melt like a cheap candle in the summer.

First up is the Tunisian Soup (pg. 66). I chose this recipe because I had a giant sized bunch of chard that was fresh and wonderful from the farmers market that I wanted to use. Pro's - Very easy to put together. No special ingredients (well it does call for harissa, but you can sub crushed red pepper which I used). It has your beans and your greens. Con's - for me chickpeas - they do bad things to my digestive system and I am required to sleep outside. I did find the lemon to be very pronounced when the soup was first finished. This mellowed with time in the fridge. The recipes calls for the zest of two lemons but the juice of one. So you need to use the other lemon pretty quickly, but no big deal. This was much more delicious the next day. Next time I will probably sub Cannelini beans. I'd also like to try the harissa.

Next up Roasted Red Pepper and Onion Frittata (pg. 36). This dish certainly did not meet my low cal/fat criteria, but sometimes you gotta throw caution to the wind! - Pro's - the onions caramelized beautifully. This was very flavorful. It was pretty easy to put together. Con's - It takes a couple of pans. I used firm instead of extra firm because I could only get firm in organic. I thought it had cooked plenty long enough and felt firm coming out of the oven, but it was still kind of mushy. I don't blame the recipe, I blame my choice of 'fu. The only downside I truly see is that you have to have plenty of time to let this cool, so you need to plan ahead. My dinner guests were tenative about the cool temp, so I might serve it just a touch warmer next time. We got 6 servings rather than 4 as stated, but we had lots of other food with it. Thumbs up. I'd make this again.

To accompany the frittata I felt it only fitting to carb it up a bit. I served the frittata with Potatoes with 40 Cloves of Garlic - Pro's - Um POTATOES? I think that alone is enough. Hee hee. Actually this was super easy to make. The fresh herbs really make this simple recipe shine. I like the fact you don't have to peel the garlic. Big time saver and a fun presentation. The garlic is sweet and awesome with this. It's a fun way to serve it, so interactive. Con's - I couldn't find any. I will absolutely make this one again. I didn't have fresh sage, so I subbed a smaller amount of rubbed sage. For a potato lover such as myself, this would never make 8 servings as stated in the recipe. Maybe 6. I could probably easily eat half of the recipe myself.

In conclusion, I think I am very much going to enjoy this book. It does have some recipes that require some specialty ingredients. I'm an ingredient/spice-aholic, so I don't find this daunting. But some might. However, there are plenty of pantry freindly recipes to choose from. The recipes I tried were all very well balanced with bright and interesting flavors. I am excited about trying more of Dynise's recipes. I've got my eyes on the Sweet Potato Gnocci with Basil Cream Sauce!

Friday, January 28, 2011

I'm Going to be on Valley Dish Live - 2/2/11

Yesterday I got a call from the program director for Valley Dish. Valley Dish is a fun and fresh show that features quick and affordable recipes for busy families and people. Tram Mai is the host and she features many local chefs and home cooks on her show. The show is not vegan by any means, but they have featured plenty of veg dishes which is awesome. Like many vegan foodies, I love checking out all kinds of cooking shows and I love to support local stuff too! They just moved in to a new studio recently so I am super psyched about cooking in their new digs.

I was one of two viewers selected to compete head to head to create the Best Tailgate Dish. Now I'm very sad my Bears won't be going all the way, but I am super excited to be able to share one of my favorite sports-watching snacks with the viewers! I'm not going to reveal my recipe until after the show, but I guarantee it is easy, fast and yummy!  I hope you get a chance to tune in for my television cooking debut. Eeep! I'm so excited. It will be on KPNX-TV Channel 12 next Wednesday February 2 at 3:30pm MST.

In the mean time I leave you with this vision of tailgating fare: Joanna Vaught's Brats slathered with carmelized onions and hot mustard. Oh yeah. TOUCHDOWN!!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

PPK Cook Book Challenge - Week 2 - Veganomicon

This week is one of my favorite cookbooks - Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. This book is a great resource for anyone who is new to vegan cooking or any kind of cooking for that matter. The first part of the book gives information on all sorts of cooking basics. The recipes are very inspired and just plain delicious. There are influences from all over the globe. There are really easy recipes and then there are some more complex recipes. So cooks of any caliber can find just what they need.

This was the first book I tested for. It opened up a world of possibilities to me and I am so thankful I was able to be part of its creation. I tested a load of recipes so it was challenging to find a few I hadn't made.

First up Fred made me the Porcini-Wild Rice Soup. Dried porcinis can some times be a bit pricey, but I found some for a steal a while back. Fred found the recipe fairly straight forward. He expressed his frustration at how the rice took much longer to cook than the instructions said. We ended up having to add 2 more cups of broth at the end. I loved the earthy flavor and the nice chewy texture of the wild rice. I loved it!!!

Next up I made the Spicy Tempeh with Broccoli Rabe and Rotelle. I made 1/2 recipe and it was 2 very generous portions. I did an extra steaming on it to make sure to get all the bitterness as Fred is not a fan. I wasn't paying attention and I made the full amount of the cooking liquid. It was a good thing, because I ended up having to add a bit more at the end because it was a bit dry.  This was a pretty simple dish. The flavors were really nicely balanced. Even the tempeh hater liked it. It was really filling. 

The third recipe we tried was the Tea-Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce. While this recipe is very simple, you need to plan ahead as it takes some time. The pears have to be poached for 35 minutes total and then they must cool for an hour. So if you try this, you'll want to keep that in mind when you are planning. I have to say, I wasn't thrilled with this one. I found the tea imparted too much bitterness for my taste. My thought was that the bitterness of the tea might complement the sweetness of the pear, but the combination wasn't my cup of tea (pun intended). Fred, on the other hand, really enjoyed it. He thought it would be excellent with a nice cognac. One thumbs up, one thumbs down. 

Next week's challenge book is Urban Vegan. I hope my copy is sitting at the post office! I'll check tomorrow.

Playoff Food

Well, my Bears lost. I am so bummed they didn't make it to the Super Bowl. I was hoping Papa Bear Halas could look down and smile today, but it was not to be.

I was supposed to meet some friends to watch the game and they bailed. So I pouted for a little while and then thought "Why am I sitting here in this bar by myself wondering what I can order to eat?" So I could have sat there and ordered mediocre food and paid way to much, or I could head home and kick back with the doggie and make something I REALLY wanted.

I am on my quest to lose weight and once a week I allow myself a splurge. Today was that day. I fired up my fryer and made some sinful yumminess. The base is crispy fried Cascadian brand crinkle cut fries. They were placed on a pizza pan and covered with Daiya cheddar cheeze and thrown under the broiler. While the Daiya was getting tantalizingly melty, I tossed thinly sliced jalapenos and red onions in seasoned flour to lightly coat and threw them in the fryer for about 2 minutes. The fries were pulled out of the oven as the cheeze was just perfectly melty. Then the crispy fried jalapenos and onions were sprinkled on top and voila! I think these just might be my new favorite football watchin' snack!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The 2011 Return of Food Network Fridays!!!!

It is no secret that I adore the Food Network. It is to me what ESPN is to Fred. I love to watch so many of the shows and I definitely have my favorite personalities. Even though I no longer consume meat, I still love the many flavors and techniques I learn about on the Food Network. It is a lot of fun to re-create the dishes in a more compassionate and sometimes much healthier version. Thankfully some of my fellow vegan food bloggers feel the same way.

We are firing up the 2011 version of Food Network Friday (FNF) this month. This time I got to select the recipe. I was farting around on Facebook and Food Network posted this recipe for Chile Relleno Burgers. I have been contemplating developing my own veggie burger and I'm also toying with the idea of writing a vegan cookbook or 'zine. Well more than toying, actually. I have had a dedicated team of testers testing recipes for me for a while now. But that is for another post. There now I've said it in blog-land. This should put some fire under me to get creating again! This gives me the perfect excuse and enough time to play around with creating the ultimate spicy burger.

Back to the challenge at hand. For those of you who have been reading for a while, you already know the FNF drill. For some of my newer readers this is how it goes down. Someone picks a Food Network recipe. We each make our vegan version of said recipe and Tami over at Vegan Appetite posts a wrap up of all of the awesomeness on her blog. This month the deadline to get your recipes to her is February 10th. You can always send it earlier. She will post a wrap up on Friday, February 11th. If you haven't participated in this before, you really should. It is a lot of fun to come up with creative recreations of Food Network favs. I love seeing what everyone else comes up with! Open wide take a bite and join us in the fun!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

PPK Cook Book Challenge Week 1 - Appetite for Reduction

So, my fine friends over at the PPK (Post Punk Kitchen) revived one of my favorite challenges - the Cook Book Challenge. Each week a different fabulous vegan cook book is featured. This is an excellent excuse to dust off some old favorites and maybe even buy a few new cook books. I had most of the books for the challenge, but I have to let you in on a little secret, I didn't have 3 of them. As I am a true cook book addict, I promptly ordered Eat Drink and Be Vegan, Urban Vegan and 500 Vegan Recipes. It's been a while since I've ordered any new books, so it felt so sinfullly good. I'm still smiling and anxiously awaiting their delivery.

Each week we are challenged to make a minimum of 3 recipes from each book. This may seem like a lot, but really, you can get three recipes in one single meal if you make sides and sauces. Below is a list of the books featured each week. Click here to see the original post on the PPK.

January 10 - Appetite for Reduction

January 17 - Veganomicon
January 24 - Urban Vegan
January 31 - Vegan with a Vengeance
February 7 - Eat, Drink & Be Vegan
February 14 - FREE choice week - Choose any cookbook. Dessert cookbook will be Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World or other.
February 21 - 500 Vegan Recipes
February 28 - American Vegan Kitchen
March 7 - Yellow Rose Recipes
March 14 - Viva Vegan
March 21 - Vegan Brunch
March 28 - Final Week! Free choice - choose any cookbook. Dessert cookbook will be Vegan cookies Invade your Cookie Jar or other.

There aren't really any rules other than at the beginning of each week, we will post a thread for the week. You can post your results as well as any pictures. If you have any questions, feel free to post them.

So now go figure out what you are making and create your shopping list!

This week Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowicz is the featured book. I was a tester for this book, so I had previously made a boat load of the recipes. I can tell you that most of the recipes are very filling, tasty and fairly easy. A healthy eater's dream. Fred got in on the action too! He made his version of the Lotsa Veggie Lentil soup. He did sub red lentils for the French lentils with excellent results. I felt healthier just looking at this beautiful bowl!

My selections were not nearly as colorful, but you want to talk about huge flavor! Pow! I combined three AFR recipes: Ethiopian Millet, Mushroom Tibs and Ye'abesha Gomen. They all had a similar flavor/spice profile and were really nice together. We used Madras Curry and Penzy's half sharp Hungarian Paprika with great results. I have to say I really loved the millet and the mushrooms together. I felt they balanced each other perfectly. The greens were good, but a tad bitter. We were absolutely stuffed. As you can see the plates were really piled up. The cool thing? Only about 520 calories if you ate the whole thing. Neither of us was able to finish the whole plate. So yes, Virginia, you can eat a huge plate full of food and feel full and guilt free.

That is the beauty of this book. Isa has found a way to make low-fat high-awesome. No surprise! Another really wonderful feature of this book is that she teamed up with a dietician who takes time to explain some nutritional basics in a very easy to understand format. If you are looking to lose weight (without feeling deprived), learn more about nutrition or just eat healthier, this is a book you should own.

Come back next week when I'll be featuring another Isa masterpiece - Veganomicon

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Where Did the Time Go?

Sheesh! I haven't posted in a very long time. I am so sorry I have been MIA. It seems I lost my kitchen MoJo at Christmas. It was actually starting to make me a little nervous. I had absolutely no desire to test, create or even cook for weeks. Anyone who knows me should have been calling me every day to make sure I hadn't been committed or something, because this is extremely out of character for me. I am slowly recovering from whatever it was that was ailing my kitchen spirit, but it is still very slow going. I think I need a session with a kitchen exorcist or something.

As I slowly break out of my funk I am focusing on more foods that are healthy, less fatty, less processed. No it's not a New Year's resolution. It is a solid goal to take of a lot of pounds before I hike rim to rim in the Grand Canyon in May. The last thing I want to do is carry 20-30 extra pounds in and out of there. So, I am very motivated to eat good stuff.

It just so happened that I needed to test a delicious light Ponzu Sauce for Robin Robertson's upcoming Quick-Fix Vegan. I decided that I would team it up with some yummy, colorful spring rolls. For the spring roll filling I used julienned carrots, pea sprouts, sauteed fresh shiitake mushrooms, chopped raw cashews and fresh cilantro leaves. They were really fresh and yummy. It was a nice change from all of the heavy fat laden goodies I had indulged in during the holidays. If you are looking for a fun way to eat healthy, try your hand at rolling up some of these pretty little things. They are GF too! The ponzu sauce was a great complement and was super easy to make as an added bonus.

Shiitake Spring Rolls
Makes 8-10 rolls

2 large fresh shiitake mushrooms thinly sliced
2 teaspoons low sodium tamari
2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and julienned
handful of pea sprouts
3 tablespoons raw cashews, coarsely chopped
16-20 cilantro leaves
8-10 - 6 inch round rice paper wrappers

In small saute pan over medium heat, saute mushrooms in sesame oil until just starting to soften. Add tamari and saute for 2-3 more minutes until tamari is absorbed. Set aside to cool.

Prepare ingredients by laying them out for assembly. Now I've been told the secret to a good spring roll is to make certain you roll them tightly. The secret is to make sure the rice paper does not get too wet and rip. Heat water in a 8" skillet until warm but not boiling. Working with one sheet of rice paper at a time dip into water for 3-4 seconds. Don't worry if it is not completely soft, it will become so in about 30 seconds. After removing from water, place on a flat surface. Once it is pliable, place 1/8 of each ingredient about 1 inch from the edge closest to you. I recommend putting the carrots on the bottom. This gives you a little more stability when you start rolling.

Fold the short end of the rice paper over the filling tightly, rolling to cover the filling. After the filling is encased. fold the sides over and continue to roll it up. I like to fold the ends in, but you can also leave them open if you are so inclined. Slice in half when ready to serve. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce. I like a Ponzu or soy based dipping sauce myself.

Click here for a pictorial on how to roll spring rolls.