Monday, October 31, 2011

MOFO 2011 Finale

It has been a fun protein-filled month for me. I hope you enjoyed this year's MOFO theme  "But...where do you get your protein?" I sure had fun finding creative and delicious ways to share the protein love with you this month. I had grand plans to crate a crazy dish with a bunch of different categories of protein, but alas, the Halloween celebrations slowed my MOFO MOJO down. So instead I leave you with some more protein tidbits:

If you don't have a gluten intolerance, seitan is one of the best protein bangs for the calories. For each 100 calories you get about 22.1 grams of protein.

Want a quick option? Veggie burgers and dogs will give you about 13 grams of protein per hundred calories (so will spinach by the way, but you have to eat a lot of it to get 100 calories).

My suggestion is to mix match and have fun with all the great vegetable based proteins. There were some I didn't get to that are staples in the vegan diet: peanut butter, tahini etc. So I have more fodder for future posts.

I am hoping that the one thing you come away with from this months posts is that it is really very easy to get more than enough protein without having to slice up Bessie or Porky. Your body, the planet and the beasts will be so much more happy! Click here for another great vegan protein guide.

I still haven't heard back from a couple giveaway winners. If I don't hear back by next week, I am going to re-draw, so check back next week!

Thank you so very, very much for following my blog I am super excited to have so many new readers and so very grateful for you veterans! Have a very safe and Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

MOFO - Day 30 - Chick Peas

Wow! Only one more day of MOFO 2011. I thank all of you for reading along. I hope I was able to share some interesting and informative protein information. This was a fun challenge for me and really made me think a lot about how easy it is to add protein to meals and snacks.

Chickpeas also known as garbanzo beans are another good source of protein. Each 1/2 cup serving has about 7.5 grams of protein and 25% of your RDA of fiber. They are also a pretty darn good source of iron, providing 13% of the RDA per 1/2 cup serving.

While I love many things made with chickpeas, Fred has asked that I only eat them when he is out of town. This is one bean that really makes me get the stinkies. I will never forget the time I made Veganomicon Chickpea Cutlets and Vegan with a Vengeance Punk Rock Chick Pea Gravy. Wow that was an explosive evening. Hopefully you don't have this issue because they are so good for you and so yummy. Many a hummous dip are made using chickpeas. One of my all time favorite recipes was a crazy awesome falafel recipe by Joanna Vaught.

I am a huge lover of gravy. Sometimes you just need that hearty, stick to your ribs goodness. Gravy tends to be a little high in fat, which never helps the ol' waistline. Pictured below is a great low fat gravy courtesy of Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, published by Lifelong Books so you can enjoy your gravy and still fit into those skinny jeans.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

MOFO - Day 29 - Navy Beans - A sweet story

I almost always think savory when it comes to my beans. I have been very intrigued by the idea of using beans in sweet dishes. This curiosity started when I posted about Adzuki beans earlier this week. I searched the internet over for ideas. I settled on this Oatmeal-Chococlate Chip (and Beans!) recipe from Epicurious. You can feel good about eating these because not only are they a delicious treat, they have some added fiber and protein from the beans! Win-win.

The recipe had to be modified a bit for veganization. A while back I bought some Ener-G egg replacer for a test recipe. I haven't used it since. I figured this would be as good a time as any to put it to use. So I replaced the eggs with 3 teaspoons Ener-G and 3 tablespoons bean liquid. I ended up having to add another 2 or 3 tablespoons of liquid to get the dough to the right consistency. In the spirit of the upcoming Hallow's Eve I opted to use 1/2 chocolate and 1/2 butterscotch chips ("black" and orange get it?). The cookies came out more cake like than cookie like. The outside had a nice bit of crunch. They are tasty little morsels!

Navy beans are a good source of fiber, iron and calcium. They will give you 7g of protein per 1/2 cup serving. OK, so to get a 1/2 cup serving out of these cookies, you will have to eat about 20, but at least you'll get a little bit more nutrition than you would with the non-bean version. Plus replacing some of the fat in the recipes with low fat beans will make your waistline happy!

OK kids! The moment we have all been waiting for! The winner of the Eden Organic bean giveaway is...

# 30 - Kris!!! Kris make sure to email me with your contact information at vegintraining at gmail dot com so Eden Foods can get those off to you. I can't wait to hear what you make!!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

MOFO - Day 28 - Black Eyed Peas if You Please

I'm not talkin' Fergie and Will I. Am. No, not those Black Eyed Peas. Although a little funk never hurt anyone. I'm talking about the kind you eat of course.

Black eyed peas are a common ingredient in southern Soul Food dishes. They are thought to bring prosperity when eaten on New Year's day. Hoppin' John is one such famous southern dish. It is traditionally made with ham hocks (gross), but there are some excellent vegan versions to be found. I've had some great BBQ versions with greens, but not this time.

I opted for a less traditional, but no less delicious preparation for dinner. I dusted off my copy of Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moscowitz to find a delicious and healthy preparation. I had a health analysis yesterday and my body fat percentage did not please me :)   I'm going to be whipping out more recipes from this book for sure. I was feeling kind of rasta-ish and thought I should run with a dish from the islands. The Caribbean Curried Black-Eyed Peas with Plantains (pg. 129) caught my eye. Fred called and said he was on his way to the grocery store, so I had him pick up some of the ingredients. It took only about 1/2 hour to whip this up.

What a great flavor profile! The habeneros gave it a nice amount of heat, but not too hot. The cocunut milk tamed 'em down a little bit. I usually use hot curry powder, but the recipe called for mild. It was a perfect balance with the heat from the habeneros, the creaminess of the coconut milk and the hint of sweetness from the red peppers and agave. We all loved that we weren't totally stuffed after. Love those BEPs!

Rather than explain all the goodness you can get from these cute little legumes with their little eyes, I thought I'd let you check out the nutritional info for yourselves.

Now if you haven't done it already don't forget to make a comment on THIS POST for your chance to win some Eden Organic Beans. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

MOFO - Day 27 - Eden Organic Bean Giveaway!!


I've been singing the praises of Eden Organic beans all week, so y'all know how much I believe in the quality and awesomeness of their products. Well here is another reason to love them: a giveaway! I spoke to some very nice people in their office in Michigan today about my love of their BPA-free cans and their beans. For the heck of it, I thought I would ask if they might be willing to provide some beans for one of you, dear readers. I am thrilled to tell you they were happy to do it! YAY!!!

I'm all about the convenience of canned beans, but I also appreciate making them from dried. Eden Foods offers both. They also have refried, seasoned and rice and beans in the can. For this week's awesome giveaway, Eden Foods will be providing 1 can of each of black beans, navy beans, pinto beans and butter beans. What a great variety!!! All you have to do, my dear readers, is a)be a follower of the blog, b) have a US shipping address and c) post a comment on this post about what you would make with the Eden Organic beans if you win them by midnight on Friday 10/28/11. A winner will be drawn at random on Saturday. I will post the winner's name here and on Saturday's post, so make sure to check back and good luck!!

Check out this variety from my very own pantry.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

MOFO - Day 26 - Pinto Beans - Burger Me!

It's becoming a musical week in our house as Fred and I indulge in many beany dishes. I don't usually have issues with beans, but after having many bean dishes in a row, well I'll leave that to the imagination. Haha. Today's protein fix comes to you courtesy of the pinto bean. Pinto beans are very common in Mexican cooking. They are great in re-fried beans and simmered whole for Mexican dishes. Pinto beans have 6 grams of protein per 1/2 cup serving. They also have 6 grams of fiber. Click here to find out more about the BPA free cans that Eden Organics uses. Very interesting and health promoting stuff!

Black bean burgers are popular on many menus across our great nation. But pinto beans are a great substitute in this version of the Black Bean BBQ Burger from Joni Marie Newman's The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet (pg. 90). I was out of black beans and slipped the pintos in instead. They were really good. The texture is most excellent after letting them chill in the fridge for several hours before forming the patties. I served mine with a nice spicy pico de gallo and lots of BBQ sauce. I also made the sweet potato fries from the same book. What a great and really filling lunch!!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

MOFO - Day 25 - Cannellini Beans

Today we are going to talk about another bean I've grown to love, the Cannellini Bean. As you might be able to tell by its name, it is a very popular bean in Italy. They are found in traditional Minestrone and lots of other Tuscan dishes.

I ususally buy mine canned, but they are more commonly purchased dry. Like most dried bean they do best if you soak them overnight before cooking. One thing I learned about the dried beans is that is is very important that they are boiled for at least 10 minutes to remove those pesky substances that can cause, well some down-right unlady like issues. Stove top cooking requires about 1-2 hours of simmering time before they will be soft. If you make your beans in the slow cooker like I do, you are going to want to make sure that you boil these for 10 minutes before putting them in to the slow cooker or your belly with not be happy.

Here are some nutritional facts from the fine folks at Eden Foods:

One 1/2 cup serving of Cannellini beans provides 5 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, 10% of the RDA of Iron and a whopping 45% of the RDA of Thiamin (B1). You also get a nice little boost of zinc (10% RDA) and calcium (4% RDA). But frankly, to me, they just taste good. I love them because they are bigger than most other white beans, so they have a toothsome bite to them. They are great to toss into a big salad with a tasty vinegarette. They are dreamy in pastas and casseroles. One of my favorite way to get my Cannellinis is soup! It is still 95 degrees here, but as fall approaches, I often long for a nice cozy bowl of soup. This soup also has some yummy kale, which surprisingly has 2 grams of protein per 1 cup serving. Kale is another nutritional powerhouse. This same 1 cup serving boasts 206% of the RDA of vitamin A and 134% of the RDA of vitamin C! Holy anti-oxidants batman! So eat your soup and keep those nasty colds away and get some protein while you are at it.

Cannellini Bean and Kale Soup

Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 stalks celery, cut on an angle about 1/8 inch wide,( approx 1 cup)
2 med carrots, peeled and thinly sliced, (approx 1 cup)
2 medium leeks, white part only, cleaned and thinly sliced (approx 2 cups)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dried parsley (or ¼ cup fresh chopped)
½ teaspoon Herbs de Province
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ cup dry white wine
1 – 15 oz. can Cannellini beans with liquid
6 cups broth
1 bay leaf
1 bunch kale vein removed, torn into bite sized pieces

In a heavy bottomed stock pot heat olive oil over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté until they start to sweat, about 4-5 minutes. Add carrots and celery and sauté until they just start to soften, about 5-7 minutes. Add thyme, parsley, Herbs de Province and white pepper. Sauté for about two more minutes, until herbs become fragrant. Add white wine to deglaze. Simmer for about 3 more minutes until liquid is almost evaporated. Add vegetable broth and bay leaf. Reduce heat to med low to simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, stir in kale. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes or until kale has softened but is still bright green. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Monday, October 24, 2011

MOFO - Day 23 - Adzuki or Aduki Beans

Adzuki beans are a fun little red bean commonly used (after fermentation) to make a sweet red bean paste that is used in pastries in same parts of East Asia. They are believed to have originated somewhere in the Himalayas. They come canned or dried. I am a huge fan of canned beans. They are super easy to keep in the pantry and quick to whip up in a pinch. Dried beans are awesome, but require a bit more planning. I buy almost exclusively Eden Organic brand canned beans. Their beans are consistently high quality and organic. They are one of the few brands that use cans that are not lined with BPA, which has been linked to breast cancer. (For those of you who might not know, I am an 11 year survivor so I am always on the lookout for companies who voluntarily eliminate suspected carcinogens from their products).

Adzuki Beans have 7g of protein per half cup serving and absolutely no fat! Oh did I mention they have 5 grams of fiber too? Add to the list a nice dose of iron, some calcium, B vitamins and trace minerals to make this a really nutritional little bean. It is worth mentioning that you can get zero fiber from meat, poultry or fish.

I look forward to trying some sweet dishes with this yummy little bean, but this fine day I opted for a nice spicy Asian Slaw.

Spicy Adzuki Savoy Slaw

1 small head savoy cabbage, shredded
1 small head red Belgian endive or radicchio, shredded
3 green onions, separated
1 - 15 oz can Adzuki beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons brown rice syrup
1 teaspoon sriracha sauce

Garnish each serving with black sesame seeds

In a large bowl, toss cabbage through beans. Separate green part of green onion from light green and white part. On an angle, thinly slice green part of green onion. Toss the sliced green onions in with cabbage mixture reserving the other part for the dressing.

In a small food processor or blender combine mayonnaise through five spice powder, adding roughly chopped white and light green part of green onions. Combine until smooth. Stir dressing into cabbage mixture.

Enjoy and come back tomorrow when we will be meeting the Cannelli Bean!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

MOFO - Day 23 - Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit

We are approaching the last week of vegan MOFO. This week the featured proteins will be not only beans, but dried peas and lentils too. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen today, but I was working on some test recipes. I'm a little spent, so this post is going to be short and sweet.

Beans rock my world. I love so many different varieties, I am very excited about exploring them this week. They can be used in so many ways: soups, salads, entrees, side dishes and even desserts. Not too long ago, I was testing for an upcoming sandwich book and had them in a wrap. Oh, yes, it was tasty! Here is a little preview of the mighty bean all dressed up in a wrap. It's going to be a magical and musical week!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

MOFO - Day 22 - Roasted Asparagus and Porcini Risotto with Pine Nuts

To wind up That's Just Nuts (and Seeds) Week I'm being a nut repeater, but I think this is worth it. Today's recipe has a bit o' the pine nut in it. Risotto is not difficult to make, but it does require patience. It is super important to keep stirring while it is cooking. This helps release the starches and coax the creamines from the grains. It is also very important that once the rice is added, all ingrdients that are added are warm or even hot so that the rice does not stop cooking. If it stops cooking during the process, you will end up with crunchy and not so creamy grains.

Once you have had a well made risotto, you will be hooked. 1 cup of cooked arborio rice (the kind you should have for a true risotto) has 4.4g of protein. Add the 1 tablespoon of  pine nuts and add another 1.2 grams of protein. This recipe has a beautiful flavor profile. The earthy mushrooms combined with a hint of rosemary in the broth dance withe the garlic roasted asparagus and fresh oregano and thyme to give your tastebuds a subtle comfort food treat. The pine nuts add just the right amount of nutty crunch. Their creaminess is a great complement to the creamy risotto.

Roasted Asparagus and Porcini Risotto with Pine Nuts

Makes 8 Servings

1 cup dried porcini mushroom
1 1/4 cup boiling water
6 cups vegetable or mushroom broth
1 sprig fresh rosemary

½ pound asparagus, cut into ¼-1/2 inch pieces (approx 2 cups)
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced (approx 1 ¼ cup)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

½ cup dry white wine, warmed
2 cups Arborio rice
½ cup toasted pine nuts

Preheat oven to 350.

In a small glass bowl, pour boiling water over dried mushrooms and set aside to soften for at least 20 minutes.

In a large saucepan add vegetable/mushroom broth and rosemary. Heat until just about boiling and turn down to the lowest setting your stove has.

In a 8 x 8 roasting pan toss asparagus, garlic olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in oven for about 15 minutes until al dente. Turn off heat and keep warm. In the mean time, drain mushrooms reserving liquid and chop mushrooms to about the same size as asparagus. Add 1 cup reserved mushroom liquid to pan with broth. Add mushrooms to pan with asparagus in warm oven. (I actually did this while the risotto was cooking but you must be a good multi-tasker).

In a small stock pot or very large sauce pan over medium heat, add the onions, oregano, salt and pepper. Sauté until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes, being very careful not to burn. Add Arborio rice and sauté until the rice is just barely starting to turn a light tan. Add warmed wine (it is very important that the wine is warm, almost hot, or the rice will stop cooking and will not soften up properly), stirring constantly. When the wine is almost totally absorbed, add about 1 cup of hot broth using a ladle, still constantly stirring. It will take a bit of time for the rice to absorb this first round of broth, but be patient. It is sooooo worth the wait. When the liquid is almost completely absorbed, add the next cup of broth and repeat. Just before adding your last cup of hot broth, stir in the asparagus mushroom mixture. Then add the last cup of broth, still stirring constantly, until the liquid is mostly absorbed. You want a bit of liquid left so that it has a beautiful creamy texture.

To serve, spoon into a wide but shallow bowl. Garnish with 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts and one fresh rosemary sprig for each serving. Serve immediately.

And now...the winner of the Chicago Diner Cook Book is....#8 Em!!!! She says she'd opt for a classic burger and fries if she were at the diner! Can't go wrong there. Em, please contact me with your mailing address so I can get your copy of Chicago Diner on its way!!! Congrats!!!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

MOFO - Day 21 - Fabulous Flax!

Flax seeds are a great source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. These important acids help lower LDL or bad cholesterol and help raise HDL or good cholesterol. These little babies are also believed to have an anti-inflammatory property that could possibly lower the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. They are rich in the anti-oxidant vitamin E and several B vitamins. Add to that impressive list a few important minerals: manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc and selenium and it is easy to see why this is a great addition to your diet. They do add a bit of protein as well. Each tablespoon of whole flax seeds has 2 grams of protein.

One important thing to remember about flax seeds is that they and their oils are very unstable and prone to oxidizing and going rancid. It is best to buy small quantities of the whole seeds at a time and grind them up in your spice or coffee grinder just before using them. If you do buy the pre-ground seeds, make sure to store them in the freezer until you use them. The oil should be refrigerated and used quickly. Both the seeds and the oil have a slightly sweet pleasant flavor.

I love to have them ground and sprinkled on oatmeal or yogurt. They are also a nice addition to salad dressing. Flax seeds are a great substitute for eggs in baking. They have incredible binding power. Use 1 tablespoon flax seeds and 3 tablespoons water. Mix them up until they are thick and creamy and voila! You have yourself a very healthy egg sub for your baked goods…like these fabulous cookies: Super Charge Me Cookies from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan (click here for the recipe). I used about 2 tablespoons of currants, 2 tablespoons vegan chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons walnuts for my add ins. These are a great breakfast cookie, snack before or after working out or just a yummy cookie treat.

I used Naturally Nutty Pepita Sun Butter for the nut butter in this recipe. I've posted about this amazing product before, but I have to say it again, this butter has organic flax, hemp, pepitas, sunflower seeds and it tastes amazing. It has 5 grams of protein per 2 tablespoon serving. You want to talk about health benefits? I also threw in a few walnuts for a little more omega power and 4.3g of protein per 1 oz. serving. These three bad boys together? Your heart should be happy and healthy!

As you can see, it is really quite easy to rack up those protein grams without having to touch any animal products!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

MOFO - Day 20 - Chicago Diner!!!

I know I am still breaking from my theme, but I do hope you will forgive me when I share yet another great dining out experience.

I was lucky enough to get to visit the Chicago Diner for my 3rd Chicago PPK meet-up! This is a threepete for me and the sweet and awesome Kelly Peloza of Seitan Beats Your Meat and author of the Vegan Cookie Connoisseur. I also got to meet two new friends from the PPK: the Harmless Hunter of the Harmless Hunter blog and Pepperpot!!!! It was a great time. They are both super awesome!

The diner is a long narrow room with, well, a very diner-ish atmosphere. Nothing fancy pants here. The server we had was really great. He made sure we were well taken care of without being intrusive. The bathrooms are very clean (always a good sign that the kitchen is clean too).

The Diner has such a kickin' menu, it was really hard to decide what to order. I wanted to try something I hadn't had before, but I really couldn't remember what I had before, so it was a shot in the dark. This time I opted for the Radical Reuben ($10.50). The swirled rye bread was soft and lucious and TDF. As you can see by the pictures the "pastrami" is a very cool pink color and looked very close to actual pastrami. The texture was great: just the right amount of chewy. This sammy was just perfect.

I had an easy time convincing one of my best childhood friends to join me in my vegan culinary adventures in Chicago. To quote her "I'm a big fan of the veggies." (Love you so much by the way!!!) After much deliberation she decided on the Sweet Potato Quesadilla ($10.50). It is stuffed with another fabulous version of seitan, black beans, mashed sweet potatoes, spinach, salsa fresca and a choice of cheddar or mozz Daiya. She chose the mozz. This is a huge portion and stuffed with such tasty goodness. There was no way she could finish it.

Autumn Vegan (Kelly) and Pepperpot (Neicey hope I spelled that right) both got the BBQ "Bacon" Cheezeburger ($9.99) though they opted for different sides. AV got the mashed potatoes and gravy (which I must try next time) and PP got the sweet potato fries, which I know from prior exprerience are delish! I didn't get to try anyone elses stuff (besides the quesadilla) cuz I was blabbing away and totally forgot to ask for bites. Haha. But they both gave the burgers a thumbs up.

Last but certainly not least, Harmless Hunter (Tyler) ordered The Soul Bowl ($12.99). I was tempted to order this myself but I had to get the famous Reuben. I need to try this next time as it looked so incredible! It has spicy grilled tofu. The tofu was beautiful, seriously beautiful. It was a nice thick slice, blackened to perfection. Looking at the pictures makes me long for a bite. It was sreved with greens, sweet potatoes and black beans. Oh and I must not forget the Chimichurri sauce!

Here we all are happy as can be! L to R Pepperpot, Me, my most awesome friend Patrice, Harmless Hunter and Autumn Vegan

Sigh...I miss it already. But you can get in on some Chicago Diner action yourself. I am giving away a copy of the Chicago Diner Cookbook to one of you fabulous followers. All you have to do is be a follower of the Vegan Conversion Challenge and post a comment about your favorite diner food or experience or anything else diner related. Because I posted so late today, I will give everyone until tomorrow at midnight to post. I will draw the winner using on Saturday. Good luck and good posting!!!

I redrew today (11/13/11) because I haven't heard back from the original winner. The winner is #11 PEANUTTY PRINCESS!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

MOFO - Day 19 - So Long Chicago!

Today is a travel day for me, so my post will be short and sweet. My time in IL and Chicago is always too short. This trip was no exception. It is amazing what you can pack in to a few short days. I was so excited to dine at three really great vegan and vegan friendly places while I was here. In the next couple of days I will be chatting up both the Chicago Diner and Karyn's on Green.

Here is the even better news. Tomorrow I will be hosting another giveaway!! In honor of my trip to Chicago, I am going to give away a copy of the Chicago Diner Cookbook! How can you win your copy, you might ask? Well, tomorrow I will be posting a review of our PPK meetup at the Chicago Diner. All you need to do to be eligible to win is be a follower of the blog and post a comment on tomorrow's post. It's that easy.

Well kiddies, it is late here and I must get ready for my travels. Make sure to check in and comment tomorrow!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

MOFO - Day 18 - Vegan in the Chicago 'Burbs - Miraculous

The other night my friends and I happened upon a bar close to the train station in Crystal Lake, IL called Duke's Alehouse and Kitchen. For my non-Illinois readers, Crystal Lake is in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, very close to the Wisconsin border. This is the land of dairy, beef and many things non-vegan. We stopped in very late at night for a drink before heading home on the train. While waiting at the bar to order, I saw a sign that said they were voted the #1 vegan friendly restaurant in the northwest suburbs by Urban Spoon.

I grew up in this area and visit every year. Usually I can find a gratuitous vegetarian dish here and there on a menu if I am lucky. I was thrilled to see they actually mentioned the word vegan on the menu. Well today, my mom and I went back to check it out. I was even more excited to find out that not only did they have vegan friendly fare, but most of it is local and organic! I was swooning to say the least.

Now the first visit was late night and it was pretty much a bar scene complete with karaoke. Today we went for lunch and the vibe was more comfy bistro. The wood floors and the brickwork gave it a rustic feel. The many windows made it bright and sunny on a cold, windy day.

Duke's sources much of their food from local and organic farms. They even have their own gardens. They have a cool blackboard on the wall that displays where they get their fresh ingredients from. I am hoping next time I am in town I might have time to check out their gardens!!

The menu offered several choices for the veg set. Our server had some knowledge of what was vegan and what was not. What he didn't know, he took the time to go to the kitchen and ask. As a good blogger should, I ordered way more than I could eat, but I wanted to check out several of the vegan offerings.

The Tempura Beans ($9.00) had a very light and crispy batter on them. These are offered in a vegan and non-vegan version. I wanted to find out how they made the tempura batter. It was not very greasy (yay!), crispy and light and served with a teriyaki type sauce.

I didn't need to try these, I had to try these; the Inferno Fries ($4.00/$6.00). These hand cut golden beauties were sprinkled with a mild cajun spice. The name Inferno is a quite an over-exageration, as they weren't very spicy. There was no doubt that these were fresh cut and fantastic though. There were none left!

The next delectable dish was the Raw Spaghetti Salad ($8.00). As the name indicates it is raw. It is also vegan and gluten free. This was a huge hit for me. The fresh zucchini was sliced thinly. It appeared that the mandolin they had was not working quite right as you could see the slice marks, but it had not cut all the way through. This was truly inconsequential to the dish because the zucchini was thinly sliced, the sun dried tomatoes were juicy and flavorful and teh kalamata olives lent the perfect amount of salty yumminess to the dish. I loved the fried basic garnish.

The Grilled Vegetable Flatbread Pizza ($8.00/$10.00) was amazing (and was 1/2 price for Meatless Monday). The flatbread was thin and crispy. The arugula was crazy fresh and nutty tasting. The tomato pesto was perfectly balanced. There was no doubt that the vegetables were fresh and perfectly grilled. I asked the server about the cheese. It tasted like Daiya to me, but I thought that maybe in the land of Soy Dairy Teese, they may have been using Teese. But I was correct. It was indeed Daiya. Mom and I both loved it!

Duke's features Meatless Mondays. They offer 1/2 price on selected vegetarian items when you purchase two bevvies. So my traveling friends and my friends who live in IL, rejoice! There is a great place you can go to tantalize your tastebuds, have a nice glass of wine or one of many beers offered. I hope other restaurants in the northwest 'burbs take note of what Duke's is doing! Take a ride on the train and get of the Crystal Lake exit. Duke's will be right there when you get off of the train!

Monday, October 17, 2011

MOFO - Day 17 - Cashews and Pine Nuts

Welcome to another nutty day at VCC. Today's featured nuts are cashews and pine nuts. Cashews are a slightly sweet nut that are fantastic as a snack on their own (I love mine roasted and lightly salted personally). They are also wonderful ground up into a paste and used to make creamy soups, sauces and other dishes. Try making a tasty cashew dip with fresh lemon juice and fresh herbs. Just soak a big handful (maybe about a cup) of the cashews for an hour or more. Drain them and add them to a food processor or blender with 2 or 3 roasted garlic cloves, a little fresh lemon juice, a touch of thyme, oregano and if you like it spicy, add a bit of chipotle or cayenne pepper. This makes a tasty dip for veggies, pita chips or crackers. Cashews are an excellent source of selenium, a nutrient known for its anti-oxidant properties. These babies are a good source of iron. Each 1 oz. serving has 5 grams of protien. All of this and they are just tasty tasty tasty!

Pine nuts, like other nuts, are a good source of several minerals including manganese. The oleic and pinolenic acids in these little gems are believed to lower LDL (the bad cholesterol). Pine nuts are also a good source of vitamin E. They provide about 3.8 g of protein for a 1 oz. serving.

I whipped up Sun Dried Tomato Pesto from 500 Vegan Recipes (pg.91) for our family gathering last night.  Both of these nuts are used to make this rich and flavorful pesto that is great on sliced baguettes or over pasta. I'm not going to lie, this is not a low fat venture, but all of the fats are heart healthy and you are going to get a significant anti-oxidant kick. Even better, your taste buds will be so very happy.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

MOFO - Day 16 - Now That's Just Nuts (and Seeds) Week!

Welcome to that's just nuts and seeds week! I am planning on visiting a few vegan and vegan friendly eateries while I am here in Illinois and reporting back. I fear that Mr. Nut and his faithful compaining Master Seed may get a big short changed this week. But I'm sure they will forgive me because veg friendly eateries must be flaunted, especially when you can find them in the suburbs.

Well on to today's featured protein: the almond. This unassuming little guy packs quite the nutritional punch. Some studies show that almonds are protective against certain cancers and even heart disease. The reason is that they contain calcium, magnesium, vitamin E and phytochemicals that help prevent disease. The almond contains many other trace minerals needed to keep your body healthy. There is even better news: a one ounce serving of almonds contains 6 grams or 12% of the RDA for protein! Yay almonds!

It is super easy to make almonds part of your regular diet. You can buy them already sliced and put them in your cereal, oatmeal, salads, vegetables, you name it. One of my favorite ways to eat them is toasted with different flavorings. Craving something sweet? Toss them in a little oil with a touch of brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmet and bake them for about 20 mintues turning a couple of times to prevent burning. Almonds can be ground up and used in muffins and other baked goods. Almond milk is awesome on cold cereal.

Today I am heading over to my aunt's house. I though I would have some nutty fun with almonds. I made an easy to eat snack from 500 Vegan Recipes. I made a variation of the Chili Roasted Peanuts (pg. 96) using almonds. The spice combination is very interesting and tasty. The combo of the chili, brown sugar and other spices are perfect with the creaminess of the almonds.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

MOFO - Day 15 - Vegan Soul Kitchen

This week's cookbook challenge book was Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry. I've always been curious about this book. Interestingly enough, this past week I have a new co-worker who just happens to be doing some non-vegan catering with his wife. Their theme: soul food and Mexican fusion. So I asked him if he had any veg friendly menu items. He said they really didn't. I brought this book in for him to check out for ideas and also gave him a try of the Red Beans and brown rice from the book. He was impressed. Score another point for awesome vegan goodness.

I have to say that when I first looked through the book, I was pretty indifferent. I guess the saying you eat with your eyes first is true. The book has a few black and white pictures and that is it. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I love pictures in cookbook, the more the better. It is kind of cool that he suggestes music with all of the recipes. It gives the book a fun little twist.

I've only made two dishes from it so far and both were really good: Crisp Green Beans with Roasted Shallots and Walnuts and Red Beans and Brown Rice with Red Wine Simmered Seitan. The recipe for the red beans and rice calls for an entire bottle of wine for simmering. I honestly think you could get away with 3 cups, saving a glass for yourself to drink while you are cooking. For me the real star of the show were the green beans. The roasted shallots gave them a creamy rich flavor. The toasted walnuts provided a beautiful earthiness and crunch to the dish. The tarragon dressing was more on the vinegary side...which I love! Somehow I ended up with far more dressing than I needed. But I am sure it will be great on a simple salad. I'm looking forward to trying some more from this one down the road. I just need to get over the lack of pictures thing.

The cover

Friday, October 14, 2011

MOFO - Day 14 - AVK Seiatan

Every once in a while you run accross a recipe that is just perfect for what you need. This savory seitan is the perfect recipe for making recipes that need a good toothesome cutlet. I love to use this recipe for things like chicken fried seitan (shown below with jalapeno gravy), seitan parmesan and one of my favorite conversions, Seitan Oscar.You can also cut thiem into smaller pieces. They make fantastic chicken fingers or faux wingz. Get creative! These cutlets will make you happy.

Savory Seitan

2 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup soy flour
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon browning sauce, optional
1/4 cup red wine, or additional broth
1 1/2 cups plus 4 cups chilled vegetable broth, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon canola oil

In a medium bowl, combine the vital wheat gluten, yeast and flour. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, ketchup, olive oil, browning sauce, wine, 1 1/4 cup vegetable broth and garlic. Mix well and add to the dry ingredients. Stir together with a wooden spoon, adding the remaining 1/4 cup broth, if needed to make a firm but workable dough. Knead for about 2 minutes, or until a cohesive dough is formed.

Let the dough rest for 15 minutes, then divide it into 10 dough balls. Place a dough ball between two sheets of parchment paper and use a rolling pin to roll it out to 1/4 inch thickness. The cutlet will shrink some during cooking, so make it about 1-inch larger then you want it to be when cooked. Continue with the remaining dough balls, keeping the cutlets separated so they don't stick together.

Preheat oven to 300 F. Heat the canola oil in large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, add the cutlets in a large roasting pan and cover with the 4 cups of broth. Cover the pan tightly with foil and place in the oven. Bake 1 hour, turning once. Let the cutlets cool in the broth. The seitan is now ready to use or store until needed.

Printed with permission from American Vegan Kitchen (Vegan Heritage Press, 2010). Copyright Tamasin Noyes

There is an option for slow cooker method in the book.I am a huge fan of crock pot seitan recipes. It takes about 10 or 15 minutes to whip up your seitan dough, roll it into one or two roasts, depending on the shape and size you want. Put it in enough cold stock to cover your roasts and let it go on low for 8 hours. I like to add black peppercorns, bay leaves, smashed garlic cloves and a few sprigs of fresh parsley to the stock or broth for a little extra flavor!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

MOFO - Day 13 - Cold Cuts

Yesterday I told you about the Gobbler Slices from the upcoming sandwich book from Tami Noyes and Celene Steen. They have some other cold cuts in store for you as well. If you've ever bought Tofurkey or any other type of vegan cold cuts, you are painfully aware of how expensive they are and how little you get. These ladies make it very easy to make your own (and it's much cheaper too!) Making cold cuts is as easy as making loaf seitan. It slices like a dream and freezes well for those busy weeks.

You have to check out this masterpiece of a Muffaletta Sammich! It is gigantoid! I have never had a Muffaletta quite like this one. It is an impressive sandwich to say the least. It travels well and will keep for a day in the fridge or in the cooler.

I'm on the road to Chicago for the week. I will be posting from there. I am going to try and hit two popular vegan restaurants while I am there, so check back next week for reviews of Karyn's on Green and Chicago Diner!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

MOFO - Day 12 - Seitan Invades Your Soup

One thing worth mentioning about steaming seitan is that you don't have to buy a special steamer pot. You can use a pasta pot or regular stock pot with a steamer basket insert. Ikea carries the inserts for only $5.99, but I'm betting you could even find them in some dollar stores. Voila - a very inexpensive and effective steamer!

The steaming method of making seitan is not exclusive to sausage making. Steaming can also be used for roasts or logs. I have been testing for Celene Steen and Tami Noyes' upcoming sandwich book. They have come up with a few pretty ingenius recipes for vegan cold cuts. One such recipe is posted HERE for Gobbler Slices which are, you guesed it, vegan turkey slices! This is a seitan style log that also has beans in it for protein variety. The flavor is so good you might start gobbling yourself.

I screwed up the recipe test for these so mine came out too dry to use as lunch "meat". I didn't want it to go to waste, so I made this warm and wonderful soup. This is perfect for the chilly days that are sure to be around the corner. Serve it with crusty bread for a filling lunch or dinner.

Cream of Broccoli and Turkee Soup

Makes 10 cups

1/4 cup Earth Balance Vegan butter
1 medium onion, diced (approx 1 3/4 cup)
1 stalk celery, small dice
1 teaspoon rosemary, crushed
1/2 teaspoon leaf thyme
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
dash of nutmeg
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 head broccoli, stems diced small, head chopped in florets (approx 5 cups)
6 cups vegetable broth (chicken flavor if you have it)
8 oz. small diced Gobbler Slices, Tofurkey or chicken style seitan (approx. 2 cups)
2 cups soy unsweetened soy creamer

In a large soup pan over medium heat, sauce onions and celery in butter until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes or so. Add rosemary, thyme, white pepper, salt and nutmeg. Saute for about 30 seconds to release the oils from the herbs. Turn heat to very low. Stir in flour. Cook for 5 minutes stirring frequently so that the flour doesn't burn. Add about 1/4 cup of the broth to deglaze, making sure to scrape all of the goodies from the pan. Add remaining broth and chopped broccoli. Turn heat back up to medium. Bring to a simmer and simmer until broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes. Using a stick blender or a regular blender in batches, blend/puree soup. I like to leave it slightly chunky, but this is entirely up to you. Return to pan (if using regular blender). Stir in seitan and soy creamer. Simmer until it is heated through and slightly thicker, 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest for 10-15 minutes. This will intensify the flavors. Serve with a nice rustic bread.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

MOFO - Day 11 - Seitan Sausages Steamin' Baby!

Well I am not sure if they are world famous, but they should be! Julie Hasson is just a lovely person on top of being a ridiculously awesome vegan chef/author/ hostess. She has this recipe for vegan Italian Sausages that are so good even my meat eating family loves them. Here is a link to her video and recipe. You will truly be amazed at how easy they are to make.

I use them in many different ways, pizza, pasta, sandwiches. Oh man, now I'm hungry!!

Here they are nekid and browning up beautifully in the pan (after steaming of course)

Slathered with marinara over penne:

This one is not one of Julie's but was made by using a similar method. It is part of the infamous "Tater Pig"

Here is Kittee's Cajun version!

Here is my own version! This recipe for this one is still top secret, but here it is as a mexican hot dog!

All of these sausages are made by the steaming method. I puffy heart this method. It is quite easy and the results are consistently awesome. The sausages come out with a medium firm texture when they are cooked. You can slice them easily or just use them whole.

Like all seitan, there are so many variations! One cool thing about vegan sausages made by this method is that they don't require a casing. They kind of make their own as they steam. Another really great feature is that you can shape them into links or patties. Once you mix up the seitan dough and shape them, you wrap them individually in foil leaving a bit of room for them to expand. Throw them in the steamer for 30 minutes and you have some really incredible inexpensive home made snausages!

Monday, October 10, 2011

MOFO - Day 10 - Seitan is NOT the Devil - Giveaway Winner!!

What is this seitan that we veg types speak of? While it is pronounced like Satan, it is not evil. Seitan which can also be called wheat gluten, gluten or mock meat is a meat analog (faux meat) made from vital wheat gluten, sometimes other flours, seasonings and flavored liquids. Vital wheat gluten is quite different from regular wheat flour. It is much higher in protein content, which makes it ideal for making a high protein meat substitution. The protein content can vary a bit from recipe to recipe and brand to brand. You can expect to get 20-30 grams of protein per 4 oz serving. Impressive I know!

In the days of the dinosaur, the traditional method of making seitan was kind of a pain and took a lot of time. The poor cook would have to mix flour and water to form a dough.  Then it would have to be kneaded under running for like 30 minutes to remove the starch. After all of that manual labor, the dough would then be simmered for a couple of hours and if you were lucky, you would simmer it correctly and get an edible batch.

Thankfully, these days there are much simpler methods. A few of the most common methods are the simmering method, the baked method, the slow cooker method and the steamed method. I've tried them all. Each method yields a different texture. Which one you chose will depend on what recipes you want to make.

The first type of seitan I ever made was Isa Chandra Moskowitz's recipe from Veganomicon that uses the simmering method. Amazingly the first time I made it, it turned out perfectly. The simmering method produces a very tender and juicy type of seitan which is great for searing or using in Asian dishes. I personally find this method the trickiest of those I've listed, but if you can get it down without producing "brainy" seitan, the flavor is just outstanding.

Let's talk about brains. Brainy seitan can ruin your day and your recipe. First, make sure that you start by putting your gluten dough into COLD simmering liquid with plenty of room to expand. Brainy or spongy seitan is usually caused by letting the simmering liquid come to a boil. This is a big no-no in making simmered seitan. To prevent the nasty globs of spongy gluten, you must actually watch the pot so it never boils! Seriously, do not let it boil. Keep the heat low enough so it very, very gently simmers. Hopefully after about an hour of gently simmering, you will have beautiful and delicious seitan.

Another word to the wise: when you are measuring and using vital wheat gluten, be careful not to spill much. If you do, wipe it up with a dry towel or else you will have a sticky mess on your wet towel. That gluten is crazy sticky stuff.

This top picture shows a seitan that has gone the way of the brain. You can see that there is no true form to the gluten. It actually looks mushy and spongy:

This next picture shows perfect simmered seitan. Look at how well formed these babies look:

Throughout the week, we will look at the different seitan cooking methods and some delicious seitan recipes. There are so many things you can do with a little vital wheat gluten!

Now we can't forget to announce the winner of the Butler Soy Curls giveaway!! The winner is #20 Cadyr's Kitchen!! She adores Vegan Brunch and wants to make some Courico Tacos with her new found stash of soy curls. Please make sure to email me a good shipping address at vegintraining @ gmail dot com so that I can send you your goodies. Have a delicious Monday!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lachesis' Seitan O'Greatness

This recipe for seitan is infamous for being one of the longest lived topics on the original PPK forums. There is a very good reason for its longevity and popularity. It is hands down one of the most fool proof, flexible and easy seitan to make. The original is not online anymore, but if it has been revived somewhere, I hope I can find it. Many great PPK cooks made variations that were outstanding. If you have never made seitan on your own before, I highly recommend you try this one first. That way you can have seitan success right off the bat and you will never want to buy pre-made again. 

I found the recipes posted on Spark People with the following nutritional info. Look at that protein content!!! 20 g per serving and only 152 calories. I'd say that's a pretty good hit o'protein.

Nutritional Info
  • Servings Per Recipe: 8
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 151.9
  • Total Fat: 4.1 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 489.7 mg
  • Total Carbs: 9.9 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 1.8 g
  • Protein: 20.2 g
Lachesis' Seitan O' Greatness

1.5 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp pepper (I use 2 tsp)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (you can use 1/8 tsp if you like it less spicy)
1/8 tsp allspice
2 tsp garlic powder

3/4 cups water
4 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp vegetarian Worcestershire sauce


Preheat oven to 325°.

In a large mixing bowl mix dry ingredients. Mix the rest of the ingredients (liquid ingredients) in a smaller mixing bowl. Whisk well until mixed.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix well, then knead for a minute or two.. it doesn't need long.

Form into a log (6-8" long), wrap tightly in foil, twisting ends. Bake for 90 minutes. When done baking, unwrap and leave out to cool all the way. Then wrap it foil or plastic and refrigerate. Slice to use as desired.

Number of Servings: 8

MOFO - Day 9 - Soy Curls and another Giveaway!!!

Today is the last day of Soy You Think You Can Dance Week. I thought we should go out with an amazing product, Butler Soy Curls. These are like a miracle product! They are super easy to prepare and have an awesome texture. They can be used in any dish you may have used chicken like soups, casseroles, stir fry, fajitas, chick salads, you see where I'm going with this. 

So, you might be thinking, what about the protein content? Well these will give you an impressive 10 g of protein per 3/4 cup serving! What I find so amazing about Soy Curls is that they are made with just one ingredient: textured whole non-GMO soy beans...that's it. They are super easy to use. To rehydrate you just soak in warm water for 10 minutes. They will soften up into a nice chewy texture. Like TVP, the curls themselves don't have much flavor, but they are amazing when added to your recipes. Butler foods has a listing of where you can buy Soy Curls HERE on their website. Those of you reading in the Phoenix area can buy them at Green New American Vegetarian in Scottsdale. You can also order them online. 

One of my favorite and simple ways to eat them is to just rehydrate and drain them. Simmer them in your favorite BBQ sauce for about 10 minutes to absorb the flavor. Caramelize some onions and throw them all on a torpedo roll. MMMMmmmm MMMMmmmmm! A deliciously messy sandwich you will LOVE!

Here is another killer recipe using this miracle protein. Courico Tacos with Pineapple Salsa from Vegan Brunch. I found a preview of the recipe online. If you don't have Vegan Brunch, you can find the recipe here. Oh and if you don't have Vegan Brunch...get it. I tested for this book and made most everything from it. It has some amazing recipes!!

I really like giving stuff away, so today one of you will win a case (6 - 8 oz bags) of this amazing product. I know once you try them you will be hooked. Sorry guys, but this one is for US folks only this time around. The rules are the same as the last giveaway. All you have to do is be a follower and make a comment on this post by 11pm MST. To make it fun, tell us what you think you'd like to make with Soy Curls! The winner will be selected by and I'll announce it tomorrow. Have a great Sunday!!!