Monday, September 30, 2013

MoFo 2013 - Day 30 - Soups On

I hope you enjoyed this year's MoFo theme. I know I did. The food world is so full of wonderful ingredients, recipes, techniques, chefs, authors and cookbooks. It really was easy to come up with things to blog about. What was more challenging was deciding which thing to blog about.

I will be having a giveaway post-MoFo, so I hope you come back for a review of a tasty line of veggie burgers: Chez Marie and an opportunity to win vouchers for her yummy burgers (gluten free!!!)

The world is a fabulous mix up of foodie awesomeness. Ponder the wonder that is the food world while you enjoy a hot, comforting bowl of soup!

Happy Eating!

Alphabet Soup

Makes 6-8 Servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, thinly sliced at an angle
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced at an angle
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary crushed
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
5 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water boiling water
3/4 cups Soycurls
1 - 15 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes (I prefer the petite in this recipe if you can find them)
3/4 cup dried alphabet pasta
Chopped parsley for garnish (optional)

In a heavy bottomed small soup pot heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until they are slightly translucent and soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add sliced carrots and celery and saute for about 5 minutes until they start to soften but are still a bit firm. Add thyme, salt, celery seed, black pepper, rosemary and poultry seasoning. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add vegetable broth. Simmer for 10 - 15 minutes.

While soup is simmering, pour boiling water over Soycurls to rehydrate. Let soak for about 10 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to cool. Roughly chop and add to soup pot. Add tomatoes and pasta. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 7-10 minutes until pasta is done. Garnish with parsley if desired. Serve with nice crusty bread and a simple salad to make a total comfort food meal.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

MoFo 2013 - Day 29 - Am I losing my MoFo MoJo?

I might be. But actually, I had a lot of social activities this weekend. I was also doing "field research" for my upcoming column for FrontDoors News. My column this month is featuring food trucks and their vegan offerings. So forgive me for not being very talkative on the blog tonight. The column should be out later this week so you can read all about it!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

MoFo 2013 - Day 28 - Za'atar Seasoning

Z is for Zucchini and Za'atar

Zucchini is one of my favorite Z words. When I visit my family back in Illinois in the summer, my brother's garden is usually brimming with crazy amounts of zucchini. We've finally had success growing it here in AZ too. It is a very mild, so you can use it in so many dishes.

I wanted to combine it something unique: Za'atar, an exotic spice from the Middle East. It is hard to describe the flavors. The sumac is bright and almost citrus like in flavor, but not quite. I knew I had purchased some for some recipe I wanted to make, but I had no idea where it was stashed. After a crazy pantry search I found it! Toasted sesame seeds are a must. There is debate on the green spices: thyme, marjoram and oregano. I decided to use both thyme and oregano in my mixture.

I found a lot of different recipes for Za'atar and it is true that the spice mixtures are different depending on what part of the region the mixture comes from. Forgive me if I have bastardized any tradition, but this is my take on Za'atar. You can easily double this recipe.

Za'atar Spice Mixture

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons sumac
1 1/2 tablespoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon oregano

Lightly crush sesame seeds and cumin seeds to release their flavors. Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

I wanted to marry the mild zucchini with the aromatic Za'atar. Recently, I had gone to a local restaurant and had some amazing zucchini chips. I thought the chips and the seasoning would be a great combo. So for the first time, I attempted frying in coconut oil. Check out this weird foaming action.

Sadly the chips came out very greasy. I have ideas on how to remedy this situation in the future. I think they need to be dried before they are fried. But this fine evening I could not give up on my Za'tar and zucchini marriage dream.

So I went on to take some very thin slices of zuchs and bake them with a little Za'atar sprinkled on them. Better, but still not what I wanted.

Third attempt was the best. I again took thinly sliced zucchini. This time I stirred it up with some white wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, Za'atar and fresh chopped jalapeño. I'm going to have to get back to you on the measurements. Recipes allude me after a couple of glasses of wine. I just start throwing shizzle together and don't pay attention. This was good enough to measure and write up. So after I get some sleep and chill out a little. I will make another batch and post the amounts here. In the mean time, here is a picture of the "pickled" yum.

Z is the end of the alphabet, but certainly no the end of MoFo for this year. 

Oh, don't think I forgot about the giveaway! The winner of the Upton's Naturals giveaway is...

#2 Cadry!!! Congrats! I will be contacting you to send the vouchers. I can't wait to see what you are going to do with those awesome Upton's goodies!!!

Friday, September 27, 2013

MoFo 2013 - Day 27 - Flashback to Food Network Fridays

One of my favorite cooking challenges ever was Food Network Fridays. Tamasin Noyes was our hostess for these fun cooking adventures. The challenge was to do a vegan remake of a recipe of one of the Food Network Stars. Please indulge me while I take a delicious stroll down memory lane. This is one challenge worth revisiting!!!

Here are  a few of my favorite remakes:

Jeff Morro - The Sandwich King's Reuben Meatball Sliders - My version HERE.

Paula Deen's Turkey Pot Pie - My version HERE

Guy Fieri's Chicken and the Bodacious Bulb - My Version HERE

Giada's Ligurian Fish Stew - My Version HERE

Tyler Florence's Double Dipped Fried Chicken - My Version HERE

I think my favorite remake of all times is a remake from this DDD video for Chicken Stuffed Sopapillas from Salsa Brava in Flagstaff, AZ. It isn't a Food Network Star recipe and the recipe isn't posted on their site, I had to wing it. It is one of the most epic recipes I've had the pleasure of remaking. - My Version HERE. This remake is going in my cookbook for sure!!

I hope you enjoyed this trip down Food Network Friday Memory Lane. It brought back some great and delicious memories for me!

Make sure to visit tomorrow for the announcement of the winner of the Upton's Seitan giveaway!!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

MoFo 2013 - Day 26 - Y is for Yammy, Jammy Breakfast Sammy

I went very outside of my box for todays post. I am a huge fan of savory yam creations. I never put brown sugar and other sweet stuff in my yams because I feel they have a great sweetness all on their own. I am also not a huge fan of sweet stuff for breakfast. So today I bring you a sweet breakfast sandwich with caramelized yams! I am surprisingly happy with the results.

Yammy, Jammy Breakfast Sammy

Makes 2 Sammys

1 medium yam, peeled and sliced thin (about 1/4 inch)
1 tablespoon Earth Balance Butter Stick
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons brandy
2 raisin bagels or English muffins, split
1 banana, sliced
3 tablespoons your favorite nut butter (I found a pecan one that was killah!)
3 tablespoons pear jam or fruit spread

In a small saucepan place yams with enough water to cover by 1 inch. Turn heat to medium and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low. Simmer until yams until they can be pierced easily with fork.

 Rinse and drain. In a 12 inch non-stick pan heat Earth Balance over medium heat until melted. Stir in brown sugar  and cinnamon and cook until sugar has dissolved. Add yam slices in single layer.

While yams are caramelizing, place bagel in toaster and toast until golden brown. Saute yams for about 2 minutes. Turn and saute for 2 more minutes. Add brandy and saute for another minute or so, until liquid dissolves. Add bananas and cook about 30 second per side making sure to get bananas covered in caramelized butter. Bananas will cook very quickly, so remove before they turn to mush.

On bottom half of bagel, spread 1 1/2 tablespoons of nut butter. On top half of bagel, spread 1 1/2 tablespoons of pear jam. Layer warm yams and bananas on bottom half. Top and eat immediately.

Let the sugar buzz commence!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

MoFo 2013 - Day 25 - Xanthan Gum

Xanthan Gum is one of the few ingredients I could find that started with X. It's made by fermenting corn syrup with a particular bacteria. OK, I'm sorry, it already sounds like sci-fi. It is used as a thickening ingredient and to suspend particles like herbs in the dressing. Now that I have learned this little tidbit, it makes total sense why some bottled salad dressing look so unnatural to me.

Xanthan gum is used in gluten free baking to improve the stability and texture of baked goods. It is a corn product, so there is always that GMO thing to think about. I bought a bag of this scary stuff like two years ago when I was going to test for a GF book. It's weird and crazy sticky stuff if you spill it and accidentally get it wet I think it is still in my pantry...and I have no intentions of pulling it out. I may have to donate it. Hee hee.

Oh and then there is Xylitol. It is a sugar substitute for diabetics and is believed to help with inner ear infections. It is found in many toothpastes as it has some anti-cavity properties. While there are natural forms of Xylitol, most of the stuff in the stores goes through lots of processing and even hydrogenation. It's also toxic to dogs. I'm not so crazy about the X ingredients. That's all I've got for X! I promise to be more inspired for Y and Z!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

MoFo Day 24 - W is for Wingz and Wasabi Mayo

W is for Watching Football, Wingz and Wasabi

I'm writing this post during Monday Night Football. The reason I mention that fact is that Wingz to me are the quintessential football snack. They were the thing that was hardest for me to give up when I stopped eating meat. I'm so happy I didn't really have to give up anything, but have gained a new friend in these tempeh wingz. Fred is not a fan of tempeh, so I got to eat more. He did love the sauce, so I will be making a seitan version for him in the future. But I wanted to make something gluten free for those of you who must abstain. I had to keep one toe in Asia for this one!

Wingz with Wasabi Dipping Sauce

Makes 2 football sized servings (8 pieces)

1/2 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon tapioca starch

3/4 cup oat flour or your favorite GF flour
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 - 8 oz package tempeh torn into 8 similar sized pieces

Grapeseed or other mild oil for frying.

4 tablespoon Earth Balance butter
2 tablespoons Louisiana Hot sauce
1 tablespoon Chile Garlic Sauce

In case you were wondering about what the chile garlic sauce and Wasabi looked like:

1 recipe Wasabi Dipping Sauce (recipe below)

Wasabi Dipping Sauce

Makes about 2/3 cup

1/2 cup vegan mayo
2 tablespoons unsweetened soy milk
2 teaspoon wasabi paste
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon five spice powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Steam tempeh for 10-15 minutes until softened a bit. Let cool enough to handle.

While tempeh is steaming, whisk soy milk and tapioca starch together in wide shallow bowl. In another wide shallow bowl combine oat flour (can sub your favorite GF flour), granulated onion, granulated garlic, smoked paprika and salt.

In a 12 inch iron skillet or heavy bottomed skillet (not non-stick) heat enough oil to come up the side of the pan about 1/2-3/4 inch to 350. Soak each piece of tempeh in the soymilk mixture. Dredge in flour mixture until covered on all sides. Gently place coated tempeh in oil. Fry for about 4 minutes each side until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel to remove excess oil. In a large bowl, combine melted Earth Balance, Louisiana Hot Sauce and chili garlic sauce. Add fried tempeh wingz to sauce and gently stir to coat. I lots of sauce, so it will be messy! Serve immediately with celery sticks, carrot sticks and Wasabi Dipping Sauce.

Go Bears!

Monday, September 23, 2013

MoFo 2013 - Day 23 - U is for Udon with Upton's Seitan!

U is for Unbelievable. It is day 23 and the posting is still going strong. It's been an unbelievably fun MoFo for me this year. I have made it a point to visit other blogs on a fairly regular basis and it has been a blast! I have been using to find new blogs. I've also visited the MoFo threads to see who is blogging regularly. There are so many dedicated MoFo-ers out there. I hope you get a chance to visit lots of them.

Brought to you by the letter U - Upton's Naturals Seitan and Udon!

Upton's makes some really great seitan products. They offer four different varieties of ground seitan and bacon seitan. This was the first time I had the opportunity to try their ground seitan. I love the fact that their ingredients are all natural and simple. I was thrilled that the ground seitan held it shape and texture during the cooking process. I love Soyrizo, but the texture of that would have turned it to mush in this dish*. Take a look at the ground seitan! It really looks like ground meat eep!

I've been in the mood for some Asian inspired stuff lately. The letter U has provided me the opportunity to scratch that itch. Udon is a simple comfort food dish in Japan that consists of a simple broth made with mirin, soy sauce and dash (a simple broth that is said to have Umami properties). It can be served as a soup or a noodle dish. I made it as a noodle dish here, but have given instructions on the soup version as well. In Japan, there are regional differences on how Udon is made. I've added chorizo and jalapeños for my own Southwestern regional touch.

Uncle Sancho's Udon

1/4 cup dulse tossed into cooking water for noodles
 6 oz dried Udon noodles
Water for cooking noodles

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 - 8 oz package Upton's Naturals Chorizo Seitan (or you favorite chorizo)*
1/2 medium yellow onion, very thinly sliced
1 - jalapeño, seeded and minced ( I used a red one)
1 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced picked ginger
1 tablespoon Mirin
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions for garnish
chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

Cook noodles according to package directions, but toss dulse flakes into cooking water. Dran and rinse noodles under cold water, leaving dulse in noodles. If you are making the soup style version, reserve 3 cups cooking liquid and stir in 1 1/2 tablespoon red or brown miso.

In wok or large saute pan heat olive oil over medium heat. Add seitan and saute until just starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add onion and saute for about 3 more minutes until onions are starting to soften. Add jalapeño, garlic and pickled ginger. Saute for until jalapeños start to soften, about 2 minutes. Add mirin to pan and deglaze removing browned bits from bottome of pan. Add cabbage and saute until it is just starting to soften, about 2 minutes. Toss in noodles (and cooking liquid if making the soup version) and cook until noodles are warmed through, about 3 minutes. Separate into 4 large shallow bowls. Garnish with green onions and cilantro. Serve immediately.

First I am going to tell you about today's Upton's giveaway! Upton's is sold online and in many states here in the US. One lucky commenter will win two coupons for one free package of Upton's Naturals Seitan. One just wasn't enough. If you are the winner, I totally recommend trying the bacon and one of the ground flavors. Leave a comment about how you think you might use Upton's seitan before midnight this Friday, September 27th, 2013. Winner will be randomly selected on Saturday!

Speaking of winners, it is time to announce the winner of Judita Wignall's Raw & Simple. The winner is:

#3 Kelly of Vegan Kid blog! Kelly, I will be emailing you to get your shipping address! Congrats!!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

MoFo 2013 - Day 22 - T is for Tortillas Chips and Tostadas

OK, so I had fully intended on making home made tempeh tostadas today. THEN we ended up celebrating too much and too late last night and cooking appealed to me...well not at all. I had the post drinky blahs. I have to apologize upfront for the low picture quality. My phone is not the best for pictures.

Instead of cooking, we went to a local Mexican place called Arriba's. Arriba's specializes in New Mexico chiles in their dishes. We've been going there for quite a while. The food is always pretty good, the service is usually excellent. Today was no exception. Our server was fantastic. She actually knew what was vegan and what was not on the menu.

We learned that two of their enchilada sauces were NOT vegan because they contain chicken or beef stock. Sadly, we had been told they were in the past. The good news is that their New Mexico style sauce is vegan. Their rice also contains chicken stock. I wish more Mexican places would use veggie stock for their recipes. It would be an easy sub and would make so many dishes vegan friendly.

Arriba's brings out their light, warm and crispy chips with a mild salsa. They have a very yummy hot sauce that you can get upon request. We always get the hot!

Thankfully our knowledgable server was able to guide us to vegan friendly dishes. The bean dip that they bring out to the table has both chicken stock and cheese in it. But happily, the refried and black beans do not contain any animal products. Armed with this info, I ordered a tostada with refried beans and guacamole. A good dinner was had by all and I didn't have to do any dishes!

I plan on heading back to the kitchen tomorrow. I am also going to be doing a giveaway tomorrow, so make sure to check back. I will be announcing the winner of Raw & Simple and announcing the next giveaway!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

MoFo 2013 - Day 21 - S is for Spinach Scramble

No plant based diet would be complete without the scramble. This is a great way to introduce friends to tofu. In this role, tofu is very unassuming. I can hardly tell the difference between scrambled tofu and scrambled eggs.

Scrambles are fun too! Like bowls, you can make any themed scramble you choose. They are a great way to use up leftovers in the fridge too. Turmeric is used to give scrambles that sunny yellow color people associate with scrambled eggs and adds some great health benefits as well. Another great thing about scrambles is they are fantastic to roll up in a tortilla for breakfast on the go.  They have no cholesterol. If you are gluten-free, use a gluten free soy sauce and you are set to go!

I like to get all of my ingredients prepped and ready to go before I start cooking as the process goes pretty fast.

Spinach Scramble

Makes 4 Servings

2 teaspoons olive oil
4 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
1/2 orange or red bell pepper, medium dice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons low sodium tamari or soy sauce*
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon herbs de Province
1 - 12 oz package extra firm tofu with water gently squeezed out, crumbled
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh spinach

Heat a 12-inch iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, mushrooms and bell pepper. Saute until mushrooms start to soften and release some of their liquid, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for about 30 more seconds. Pour in tamari and saute for about a minute until all of the liquid is gone, about 1 minutes. Add turmeric, thyme. black pepper, salt and Herbs de Province and saute until herbs are just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add crumbled tofu and nutritional yeast. Saute until tofu is heated through, about 3 minutes. toss in chopped spinach and saute until spinach is just wilted, about 2 minutes.

Garnish with chopped chives and grated vegan cheese (optional).

* If you use regular instead of low-sodium, cut back on the amount of salt.

Use GF tamari and this recipe is GF!!!

Friday, September 20, 2013

MoFo Day 20 - A little out of order V is for Vitamix Recall

I am going a little out of order just for today. For those of you who own a Vitamix, you know what a joy they are to own. I make all sorts of stuff in that blender. I got my first one back in 2000. Last year Fred got me a new and fancier model that I adore. They are  dream to make smoothies, soups, dressings, pie fillings all sorts of goodies. I don't know what I ever did without it.

The other day in the mail, I received a notification that there was a safety recall on my beloved blender. If you own one of their newer low profile machines, please make sure to click here for the recall information to see if your unit is affected. It is a pretty serious safety issue, so make sure to check and stop using it if it is part of the recall.

If you are like me, you probably don't always remember to send in your registrations for appliances. The downside to that is you may not get important information like this. Vitamix is a very great company to work with. When Fred called the number about the recall (our unit is part of it). They told him they were going to send a prepaid box immediately for us to mail back the container. They promise to send a replacement within 5 days and some type of gift for the inconvenience.

Below are the models that can be affected:

Professional Series 300
Professional Series 750
Vitamix 7500

I'm looking forward to getting mine replaced and back to blending!! Have a safe weekend!!!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

MoFo 2013 - Day 19 - R is for Raw

I'm not going to go into great detail on raw today. I recently did two posts on Raw and Raw author Judita Wignall in THIS post and THIS post. I do want to say that when I am eating raw, it's been easy, tasty and makes me feel very energetic. You don't have to have a crazy amount of special equipment to do some raw stuff. A food processor, a good blender, a good knife, cutting board and you are ready to get started.

I haven't done a giveaway all MoFo, so I think it's about time. I have another Judita Wignall book to share: Raw and Simple. In this volume, Judita offers more tips on the benefits of the raw diet, how to get yourself set up in the kitchen and great recipes.

I decided to try out Her Meat and Cheese Pierogies (pg. 132). It has several components, most of which can be made ahead of time. I made the "meat filling" the "cheese filling" and Creme Faiche ahead of time. When I got home later in the day, all I had to do was thinly slice turnips for the wrappers and cut up some chives for garnish. Honestly, I thought the creme fraiche was an unnecessary addition. I actually thought the balance of flavors was better without it.

This book, like her first one is full of beautiful pictures. She offers very handy nutritional advice. What I love about this book is that the recipes are truly simple. It makes raw less scary for those who feel a little intimidated about how to get started. 

Now it's your turn. Leave a comment about what intimidates you about raw "cooking" by midnight MST Sunday, September 19th for your chance to win a copy of Raw & Simple! Good News!! US, UK and Canadian folks are all eligible to win. The winner will be randomly selected on Monday. Please make sure to leave a way to contact you if you are the lucky winner. Good Luck!!!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

MoFo 2013 - Day 18 - Q is for Quinoa

2013 has been declared the International Year of Quinoa by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. Often mistaken for a grain, this versatile and nutrient rich seed couldn't be more well suited for this honor. It's a complete protein, has lots of fiber, iron, magnesium and B-6. It's so quick cooking and can easily stand in for longer cooking rice in lots of dishes.

Quinoa is super easy to prepare. There are a few important tips to remember when preparing quinoa. This will ensure fluffy awesomeness.

1 - Make sure to rinse. Quinoa has a substance called saponin that can make if very bitter. Place quinoa in fine meshed strainer and rinse in cold water until it runs clear.

2 - Many people swear by a 2-1 water to quinoa ratio. I end up putting a little bit less water in to account for the water left from the rinse (for 1 cup dried quinoa, I use 1 7/8 cup water)

3 - Be patient - cook for 15 quick minutes. Turn heat off and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then lift the lid and fluff with a fork.

That's it.

When I am being semi-organized, I try to prep some stuff on the weekend for quick weekday meals. Bowls are a great way to do one dish meals and quinoa is the perfect grain for them. Heat up your favorite grains (quinoa, rice, millet, etc), add a protien (nuts, beans, tofu, tempeh, seitan), throw in your favorite sauteed veggies and a sassy sauce and you are good to go. You can get creative by using lots of different profiles from all over the globe for your own quinoa bowls: Asian, Mediterranean, Indian, you name it.

Not surprisingly, I did a little Southwestern twist on my bowl. You can re-heat leftover quinoa or make fresh.

Texas Quinoa Bowl

Makes 4 servings

2 cups cooked quinoa, heated
2 cups home made or store bought vegan chili
1 cup vegan queso
chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
tortilla strips for garnish (optional)

Heat chili and queso. In a bowl layer with 1/2 cup warmed quinoa, 1/2 cup chili, 1/4 cup queso. Garnish with cilantro and tortilla strips.

Eat hearty!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

MoFo 2013 - Day 17 - P is for Pomegranate Cafe

I seriously can't believe I didn't do a potato post today! If you know me you know that potatoes are my love and passion. They had to get a mention today on what is truly their day!

However, I have another passion. It is dining out at great indy restaurants. Pomegranate Cafe has been a favorite of mine for a long time. I'm excited to report that they are now open for dinner. They have expanded their dining room to almost double what it was before. Their menu is full of great sandwiches, salads, soups, quesadillas, fresh juices, elixers, fresh home made pastries and fantastic coffee.

They also host many guest speakers and cooking classes. I have always loved the fact that they highlight local and fresh ingredients. It's a great place to take your girlfriends for a special lunch and your meat eating friends for a really fantastic dining experience. Plus they have cute table decorations.

We lucked out on our last visit. Their special started with P! Yep, that was a sure sign I was supposed to use them for my P post. Without hesitation I ordered the Portobello Burger and the signature Pomegranate Chocolate Raspberry Cake. The Portobello burger was topped with a mountain of fresh veggies, roasted red peppers and a delicious rosemary aoili. I loved the option of a side kale salad and the roasted potatoes, well you know I love those. I almost licked my plate.

If you haven't yet been to Pomegranate Cafe, you should go for their signature cake alone! You won't believe it is vegan. It is moist, rich and bursting with rich chocolate flavor with just the right amount of pomegranate. It is hard to visit without getting a slice.

So lets count the P's in this post: Pomegranate, portobello, pepper, potatoes, perfection. Yep, I think we have the p's covered.

Pomegranate Cafe
4025 E Chandler Blvd. Ste 28
Ahwatukee, AZ


Closed Mondays
Tues - Saturday 8am-8pm
Sunday 8 am - 4pm

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mofo 2013 - Day 16 - O is for Onions

Oh onions, what a boring world it would be without you. I truly feel sad for people who hate onions. I love them in so many ways. They bring such great flavors to so many dishes.

Onions come in 4 general varieties with many variations of each: yellow, red, white and green. Yellow is by far the most common in the US. Red ones can add beautiful color to many dishes. The white varieties are the ones used most in Mexican cooking. The green varieties, scallions and chives are great sprinkled on top of all sorts of yummies including two of  my favorites: baked taters and nachos.

They are part of the Allum family. The humble onion has been used not only in cooking, but can also be rubbed on the skin as an insect repellent. I'm guessing by the way you will smell, it might end up being a human repellent as well. Studies have indicated that the onion can help prevent certain diseases and illnesses including heart disease and ulcers. If you get stinky onion breath, don't fret. Eat a couple of sprigs of parsley to get you back to kissable.

Onions are super versatile. You can slice them raw and put them on sandwiches and salads. Dice them up for tacos and pizza. Throw them on a skewer with other goodies and grill them. They are great in chutney, soups, stews and relishes. Oh and of course, we can't forget the addicting onion rings.

Before I gave up the beefs, I used to LOVE french onion soup. It is traditionally made with a concentrated beef stock. It is honestly super easy to make a vegan version of the soup itself by subbing a strong veggie stock. Instead of covering the crock with melted cheese like the traditional version, my version makes use of sliced stale baguettes to serve as a raft for the gooey cheese.

Onion Soup (of the French variety) with Cheezy Croutons

Makes 4 servings.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium onions (I like to use a combo of red and yellow), halved and sliced very thinly
2 cloves garlic minced
1teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled between your fingers
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup red wine
5 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons kitchen bouquet (optional, but highly recommended)
1 1/2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire sauce

12 slices baguette
olive oil for baking
1/2 cup shredded white vegan cheese (I used Daiya Havarti)

In a heavy bottomed soup pot heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add sliced onions. Saute until onions are golden brown and caramelized, about 20 minutes. (This makes the onions beautifully sweet). If pan gets dry, add a touch of water so onions won't stick. Add garlic and saute for about 1 minute. Add thyme, salt, pepper and rosemary. Saute for another minute until fragrant. Deglaze with red wine. Saute until liquid is mostly evaporated. Add vegetable broth, kitchen bouquet and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 20 more minutes. Soup can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator for up to a week.

While soup is simmering, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush both sides of baguettes slices with olive oil. Bake for 7 minutes. Turn and sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon cheese. Return to oven for another 7 minutes or until cheese is melty and bubbly.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with 3 cheezy croutons. Serve immediately.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

MoFo 2013 - Day 15 - Nutty for the Letter N

We're half way there folks. Day 15! I went a little nuts today. Pun intended. Nuts are so versatile it was hard to keep this post within reason. I'm going to post the cliff notes version. Nuts are packed full of quick and easy nutrition. They have protein, omega-3's, minerals, anti-oxidants and healthy fats. They are pretty high in fat, so use them sparingly in your well balanced diet.

The great thing about nuts is they can be eaten so many different ways. Simple can be best, especially when you are in a hurry. Grab a hand full of nuts for a healthy snack. They are often available out of the shell for convenience. Grocery stores with good bulk departments will offer raw, roasted and flavored varieties. When using nuts in raw recipes, it is best to soak them first. Spread nut butters on bread or veggies for a quick snack. PB & J's are pretty darn healthy if you chose those without a lot of added sugar. Nuts can be added to savor and sweet dishes. They make great garnishes too!

Here is just a sampling of the many nuts to enjoy. Starting from top left (going clockwise): cashews, walnuts, pine nuts (piñon nuts), almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans (center).

I have been buying commercially made almond mild for a long time. Most of the brands I have been able to find contain carageenan. There are certain forms of carageenan that are suspected carcinogens, so I try to stay away from products that contain this ingredient as I am not sure which type might be in the product. I love almond milk and use it a lot in baked goods and on my cereal. While it may not be less expensive, making your own is a snap and you will know exactly what went into it.

First, soak one cup in filtered water overnight. Rinse and drain the almonds and throw them in the blender with 4 cups of filtered water and 1/2 pitted date (you can use a whole one if you like your milk a bit sweeter). Blend until well combined and no large chunks remain.

Take a nut-milk bag (this is an inexpensive nylon bag you can find at many health food stores and Whole Foods) and place it over a large bowl or pitcher. Pour mixture into bag letting it drain into bowl.

Gently squeeze the contents of the nut-milk bag until no more liquid comes out. You can dry the solid remains and grind into powder to use in baked goods. You should get a little more than one quart. I drink a little then store the rest in a tightly sealed quart Ball jar in the fridge.

Today I had to head to work after making my almond milk. I am fortunate enough to have a little kitchen in my office. My old Vitamix is there so I can whip up healthy smoothies and soups right there at work. Today I had the pleasure of using my freshly made almond milk. This quick smoothie is full of the goods: lots of protein from the hemp seed and almond milk, potassium from the banana, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants all around.

Banana-rama Smoothie

Makes 1 - 2 cup smoothie

1 cup fresh almond milk (or your favorite)
1 large banana (frozen is best)
1 tablespoon cacao nibs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon hemp seed
1/2 teaspoon maca (optional)
1/2 cup ice

Place all ingredients in blender. Pulse to combine ingredients, then blend until smooth. Pour and enjoy.

It's really easy to snack healthy. Make this smoothie in the morning or the night before for a great snack for work or school. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

MoFo 2013 - Day 14 - M is for Mexican in Monterey!

You heard me right. All Vegan All Mexican All the Time!!!

After hitting Gilroy on our way to Monterey, we headed toward the coast. I was very surprised at how few vegan options there were to be found in this beautiful place. I always associate Cali with fresh, local produce as they are such a huge producer of such. I guess I should have realized this area is very seafood focused as there is a wharf and Cannery Row right there.

Two days into the trip, I was ready for something besides pasta and salad options. Don't get me wrong, they were delish and the sourdough bread was TDF. Can you say carb overload? But I wanted to sink my teeth into some more creative vegan fare.

My wish was granted when we finally made our long-anticipated stop at El Cantaro right there in Monterey. El Cantaro just opened their doors in May. We had been kayaking and our guide was kind enough to drop us right out front of the restaurant. When the van door opened, I sprinted inside I was so flipping excited.

There was another girl from Dallas taking a picture of this sign at the same time I was! She was equally excited to discover such a place.

We timed our visit just right. When we walked in there was only one person in line in front of us. The huge menu above the counter was all vegan! The open kitchen was clean and compact. Three friendly employees including the owner were happy to help. We grabbed the printed menu and sat down to try and choose from the great variety of Oaxacan style Mexican fare. The Oaxacan region is known for it's wide variety of cuisine and their creative uses of chocolate. Many of the traditional dishes include Oaxacan cheese, but this food didn't need any of that.

As we waited for our food, many more people started to arrive. The place was hopping. There were people of all ages. I saw a couple that must have been in their 60's, a young lady in her 20's and a family with young kids. I was excited to see such a variety of people supporting a new local vegan place. The owner is a Seventh Day Adventist who follow a diet emphasizing wholeness and health. This includes following a clean vegetarian diet. She wanted to open a place that offered lots of delicious options for people who believe in eating the same way.

Chile rellenos were one of my favorite non-vegan Mexican dishes, so that had to happen. These actually ended up being Fred's favorite of the bunch. I loved that the chile was big and substantial with thick meat on it. Often the chile to breading ratio is out of balance on rellenos, these were good! They had creamy vegan cheese in the middle. The breading was a bit heavy, but tasty. I loved the traditional thin red tomato sauce as well. 

We chose the "beef" enchiladas so I could try their vegan meat. I was having a hard time deciding on green or red sauce, so they offered to put both on which ended up being a great call. They filling had a great texture. I couldn't decide which sauce I liked better, I was happy there was plenty of sauce on the enchiladas as I am a very saucy girl. The red sauce had a slight sweetness to it, which I suspect may have been a little chocolate which the Oaxacans are famous for using in many of their dishes. The green sauce was even yummier with a little more heat.

Fred ordered the Fish Baja Style Taco with the pineapple salsa. He opted for the pineapple salsa. The fresh flavors of the salsa and guacamole made me feel like I was at a Mexican taco stand at the beach. I loved the combo of the tart salsa with the creamy Baja Sauce.

I ordered one of their famous Crispy Potato Tacos. I wish I would have written this right when I ate it, because now I can't remember everything that was on it. What I do remember, however, the crispy potato tortilla was incredible! I must figure out how to create one of these for my cookbook. It was perfectly crunchy and held together very well. The fillings were delicious and there was a perfect amount of vegan cheese on top. 

The service was great. The food is made fresh to order, but still came out pretty quickly. The staff members were all very friendly. They made a lot of great suggestions on what to try and seemed to truly enjoy serving us.

I had planned on going back the following day to try some of the more traditional Oaxacan dishes:  Tlayudas, Negro Mole and tamales. Sadly, we got up a smidge late and didn't have time to completely fulfill my Mexican food fantasy before heading to the airport. But if you are in the Monterey area, you can fill yours! Bring your non-vegan friends too. They will love it.

El Cantaro
791 Foam Street
Montery, CA 93940

Monday-Thursday and Sunday 10am - 9pm
Closed Saturday
Friday 10am-330pm