26 May 2011

Review: Chili Lime Tofu & Pasta de los Angeles

Ridiculously large collection of vegan cookbooks? Yup, I have one. And sometimes I occasionally let some slip to the bottom of the stack and forget them. Or, I read them in bed and forget that they're stashed under my bed. The latter of which is what happened with Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Oops. Now I feel compelled to make a ton of recipes from that poor neglected cookbook. I do. Don't mock me. I'm very sensitive. Not really. But a little.

As you may already know, I have been a bit of a tofu-phobe. I'm coming around, though. Cut me some slack. I have food texture issues. Having a the TofuXpress tofu press has helped a lot because I can press the life out of that tofu, making it have a chewier texture when it's cooked. I decided last night that I wanted to try a tofu recipe from Appetite for Reduction, and since I love spicy food, I chose the Chili-Lime-Rubbed Tofu on pages 155-156. Ms. Moskowitz recommends her Pasta de los Angeles (pages 177-178) to accompany the tofu, so I made that, too. And both were excellent!

I have a terrible time following a recipe exactly, but I came quite close with both of these. I only made a few changes, really, so it mostly still resembles the original recipe. As for changes I would make next time, I would add more chili powder and a some cumin to the tofu since I love spicier food. For the pasta, I would add more black beans (the recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups, and I'd up it to 2 cups). Believe me, these are some of the least altered recipes I've ever made. Usually, I need to add a ton more spices and garlic.

How I altered the recipes this time:
Tofu: added a smidge of garlic powder and some black pepper.
Pasta: had no WW pasta so I used regular spaghetti, used romas instead of plum tomatoes, less spinach, 1/2 the cilantro, added some garlic powder and onion powder.

I definitely recommend the cookbook, in general, and these recipes in particular! So very delicious. Dig it. Or not. Whatever.

23 May 2011

Meg's Garden Update 1

I have had a few people asking how my new garden is coming along, so I decided that I should maybe just update the blog with some photos of the progress. Things are coming along nicely, except for the watermelon and the okra, both of which have been hurt by this bizarre weather this year...freezing cold one day, flooding rain another, and then above average temps all within the span of 3 days. But, everything else is doing pretty well!! Or maybe that is just my wishful thinking as I'm a new gardener. Whatever. Here are the photos:

This is summer squash

Tomatoes, red onion, and garlic

Brussels sprouts and romaine lettuce

Some of the pea plants (sugar snap peas, I believe)

More peas on the trellis

Peas, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts

Almost everything

Tomatoes, onions, garlic, summer squash and more peas

Bell pepper, jalapenos, 2 kinds of tomatoes

Last but not least, my first strawberry!

22 May 2011

Vegan Fried Pickles!

If I were a world leader, I would declare Fridays to be fried pickle day. No one can resist their magical powers. I would use them to take over the world. Or whatever. Oh, wait. I made them on a Saturday. I guess I haven't really thought through my plan for world domination. Really, though, I first had these a few years ago when I was down south whitewater rafting with some family, and I couldn't get enough. Sadly, when I came back home, I couldn't find them anywhere, and people thought me insane when I asked. They had the insanity part right, but not because of the pickles...

Speaking of pickles, I used the kind you find in the grocery store's refrigerated section. I chose the Kosher Dill Spears. These pickles are extra crunchy and I, literally, can't resist their extra garlicky flavor. I may have sipped some of the juice from the jar when no one was looking. Anyway, because they are so damn crunchy, they were perfect for the frying. They actually stayed crunchy after frying. Mmmmmm.....

You'll definitely want to set up 2 shallow bowls for the dredging and use some tongs if you have them. It gets messy. I started out using my hands to dip and dredge the pickles, but my fingers very quickly resembled clubs. I had to abort that plan and dig out the tongs. Also, don't be me...I used a pan that was a little too shallow, so I got some splatter all over my stove. Icky. Maybe one day I will break down and get a fryer. For now, I will instead berate myself for not using a deep enough pot. Not really. Well, maybe.

Makes a whole jar of dill spears. Don't be surprised when you abandon the rest of your dinner and eat only the pickles. I had made some delicious tempeh BLTs (aka TLT) made, but didn't even bother eating any until all the pickles were gone. OH, I almost forgot to tell you! The pickles are incredible dipped into your favorite vegan ranch. Here is the recipe I usually use---> Scroll down about halfway to find the Rodeo Ranch recipe. I sub almond milk for soy as I don't have much love for soymilk.

Enough chatter, on to the recipe!

  • 1 jar kosher dill spears, or your chosen pickle
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup almond milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Braggs liquid aminos
  • about 2 tsp sriracha or your chosen hot sauce (Don't worry, the pickles aren't "hot" - it just adds flavor to the batter)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • dash cayenne
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 flax egg (1 TB ground flax mixed with 3 TB warm water and set aside until it resembles egg snot)
  • Oil for frying - you want at least 1-2 Inches deep in your chosen pot or deep fryer
  1. First of all, you want to put your pickles out on paper towel and gently pat them with another paper towel to get all the excess liquid off of them.
  2. In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together almond milk, worcestershire, Braggs, sriracha, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and flax egg.
  3. In another wide, shallow-ish bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and pepper. Your two bowls should look something like this:
  4. Heat your oil to 360 degrees F. I got mine to stabilize temperature while I was still dredging the pickles...but you should start heating the oil as it takes a little while on your stovetop. Moving on.
  5. Using your tongs, dip pickle into the wet bowl, then into the flour. Then back into the wet. Then back into the flour. The messier the better! Not even joking. The crazy excess dredge makes for delicious crunchy coating after they are fried. Repeat until they are all coated.
  6. Very carefully use your tongs to put a few into the hot oil. I only did 3 at a time because adding more lowered the oil temperature too much. You want it to stay around 350 degrees F while cooking. When they are a lightly browned all over, remove from oil and put on a paper towel-lined plate to soak the excess oil. When you first put them in the oil, do it one at a time, otherwise they try to stick together. Also, when first putting them in, use your tongs to make sure they don't stick to the bottom. It only takes a second. 
  7. Once they have cooled a bit, chow down. I highly recommend a dip in some ranch dressing. Enjoy!

18 May 2011

Dark Chocolate Mint Cupcakes

It's been ages since I made cupcakes, and I felt the craving come on last night. So, I decided to try something I've been thinking about for a while. I love dark chocolate and I love mint. Thus, the dark chocolate cuppie was born. And, as always, it's all vegan and all delicious.

If you've ever had the mint Oreos (yes, they're vegan), you know what kind of flavor to expect here. This frosting tastes identical to the minty cream filling in the Oreos. I love love love love love my dark chocolate cocoa. It really adds a nice depth of flavor to the cupcakes. I've added it to my fabbo Double Chocolate Pecan Cookies for a deeper flavor a few times as an experiment. Dudes. It was no joke. So, anyway, I don't feel much like chatting as I have a terrible headache this evening. Make the cuppies.

Makes 6 cuppies. I can't make a dozen or else my pants will no longer fit. No joke.

Cupcake Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup +1 TB flour
  • 3 1/2 TB dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 + 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • scant 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp mint extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract (if you don't have any, substitute vanilla extract)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 2 1/2 TB canola oil
  • 1/3 cup sugar
Frosting Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 TB vegetable shortening
  • 2 TB almond milk
  • 1 tsp mint extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar (amount varies depending on how stiff you want the frosting)
  • A few drops of food coloring (optional)
Cupcake Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with 6 cupcake papers.
  2. Combine the almond milk and the vinegar in a big bowl. Set aside for about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, start the next steps.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, sugar, baking powder and baking soda.
  4. Add the extracts and oil to the milk mixture.
  5. Add the wet bowl to the dry and beat until no dry spots remain and you don't see any chunks. 
  6. Equally distribute in the cupcake papers. They'll be 2/3 to 3/4 full. Then bake on middle shelf for approx. 18 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Don't frost them until the cuppies are completely cool. Otherwise your frosting will melt. Don't be that person. 
Frosting Method:
  1. Whip the shortening with the extracts. 
  2. Add the almond milk and then add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until it reaches the thickness you prefer. Set aside while the cuppies cool.

15 May 2011

Vegan Lentil & Potato Curry

If you visit my blog often, you'll know that lately I've had a complete obsession with making curries, and today is no different. I was looking around for some way to use up a cup of dried lentils I've had in my cupboard for a while and I thought that maybe, just maybe, they could work in a curry. BAM. I was so right. What's new, right? I'm beginning to think I have a knack for this whole "cooking" thing.

If you haven't cooked lentils before, they're really easy to cook. But, they are disgusting if you overcook them. There's a fine line between perfect lentils and overcooked mushy ones. When you cook lentils, check them often. The cooking times can vary greatly depending on the type of lentil as well as how old the lentil is. I cooked mine in veggie broth for about 20 minutes today, checking them often so I wouldn't overcook them. For this recipe, you want to still have some chewiness to the lentils because they will cook a bit longer in the curry. I boiled the potatoes for about 7-8 minutes to make them "fork-soft" to cut down on curry cooking time.

I'm all about brown rice, so I made some to go with the curry. It seriously went so well together that I can't imagine one without the other now. What I ended up doing is lightly toasting a garlic pita, then topping it with some brown rice, then the curry. Definitely the way to go. So, I highly recommend it. But, whatever. It's your dinner.

This recipe make enough for 4-5 giant entree-sized servings.

  • 2 cups cooked lentils (1 cup dried, cooked in about 1 1/2 cups veggie broth, for about 20 minutes)
  • 2 smallish Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/3-inch dice, then boiled until fork tender
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 TB veggie broth
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped really small
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 of a white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 2-3 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 tsp cardamom
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet (that has a lid) over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add the onion and carrot and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes. 
  2. Add all the rest of the ingredients and stir well to cover everything in spices. Cook for about 4 minutes, then cover with lid and turn heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Adjust your seasonings and serve with cooked brown rice. I like to eat mine on either garlic naan or a garlic pita bread. Sooo tasty!!

14 May 2011

Spicy Tofu Scramble

I've been told I'm a rare breed of veg...I don't especially love tofu, in general. But, I'm making an attempt to try more ways of cooking and eating it. Thus, the spicy tofu scramble. I ate mine with some hot salsa and flour tortillas like a breakfast taco/burrito. They were incredibly tasty. I've only made tofu a couple of times, so I am always surprised when I have success with it. Lame, I know. I can't help it. I just have texture issues, but a very thorough pressing does help with that. I simply cannot enjoy juicy tofu. Blarg. Moving on....

I love food with a kick, and that's what I was really craving today. I used a little bit of everything in this scramble as I had lots of odds and ends in my fridge that needed to be used up. Really, you could probably use any veggies you want. I don't have an exact recipe for this one. Fly by the seat of your pants, live a little. Be creative. Make it yours.

This pseudo recipe make enough for 4 little tacos or 2 big burritos. I only say pseudo because I'm not certain of the measurements. I just kind of threw things together without much thought.

  • 1/2 block tofu, pressed, then crumbled with your fingers or a fork
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 3 TB green pepper, diced
  • 4 cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 roma tomato, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp my taco seasoning (or your favorite brand)
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flake
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  1. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and heat for 2-3 minutes. Add in the onion, green pepper, garlic and tofu along with all of the spices. Stir well to coat the tofu in spices and oil. Cook about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are softened, which took me about 4minutes. Don't forget to stir regularly though so that everything cooks evenly.
  3. When it is pretty much done, add in the chopped tomato and cook until heated through. Maybe 3-4 minutes. Any longer and it will pretty much disintegrate the tomatoes. Serve on tortillas and top with some warmed salsa. I just put mine in a tiny ramekin and heat in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Mmm mmm. So tasty and spicy.

13 May 2011

Chickpea and Potato Curry

Chickpeas + potatoes + onions + garlic + curry powders = Heaven.
I made Aloo Gobi a couple of days ago and really fell in love with using curry powder, so I thought I'd give it another shot with some different ingredients. What better than to use two of my favorite things - potatoes and chickpeas?! I know, you're probably thinking, "Where has this chickpea been? I've been making curries since I was but a wee child." Well, you know what you can do with that attitude? I don't know...start a blog, do interpretive dance. Shit, go ride a bike, I don't fucking know. I'm going to move on and leave you in my curry dust.

I absolutely, insanely, obsessively love this dish. I don't know if it has some official Indian name, so I just gave it a generic name. Just like your mom. Ooooh, burn. Not really. I'm just feeling particularly sassy after all these tasty spices have warmed my belly. Anywhoooo. When I made the Aloo Gobi a couple days ago, I also made my tasty Garlic Naan. It goes perfectly with today's curry. I like brushing it with a tiny bit of vegan butter or olive oil and a sprinkle of garlic salt and heating the breads in the oven for a few minutes. Then, I pile some curry on and eat it sandwich style or pizza style. So damn good. You'll thank me. <---this is me being fake cocky, by the way.

Make the damn curry already.

This recipe makes enough for 4 as a main dish.You really need the bread, but if you don't have naan, just use pita bread and do the butter/garlic salt trick. Alright, you don't need the bread, but you'll love it together.

  • 3 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/4-1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, roughly diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 TB canola oil
  • 1 1/2 to 2 TB curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp madras curry powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 TB water
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a large, flat skillet that has a lid. Though, you don't need the lid quite yet. Oh, turn the heat to medium.
  2. Once the oil has heated for a couple of minutes, add the onion, spices and potatoes. Mix really well, until everything is lightly coated in spices and oil. After a couple minutes,say 4 minutes, add the garlic and chickpeas. Stir again. Cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly to keep stuff from sticking to the bottom.
  3. Add the water then put the lid on, and turn the heat to low. You'll cook it like this for about 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are softened to your liking. Be sure to stir every 5 minutes to keep the ingredients from burning to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Once done, add the lemon juice and mix well. Serve with your bread. Or not. But, I still say you should have bread. Then again, I am a carb-o-vore.

10 May 2011

Raised Waffles a la Vegan Brunch

One of my most beloved breakfast foods has to be the humble waffle. You can add all sorts of spices, nuts and fruits, and it pretty much always tastes lovely. You should know now, though, that I am a waffle outcast. I just can't bring myself to put syrup on my waffles. There is the rare occasion where I will dip a bite or two in some maple syrup. But, as I said, it is rare. But, feel free to drown your sorrows in syrup.

While we are talking about my favorite things, let me mention my most-used cookbook as of late: Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I've tried quite a few of the recipes and they were all a success! And, I never feel like I need to alter her recipes. That's where these waffles came from. They're called Raised Waffles because they use yeast for leavening instead of baking soda/powder. They do take a little time to let rise, about 45 minutes, or you can let them rise in your fridge overnight. I haven't tried the overnight rise yet, so I can't really comment on that. Today was the second day in a row that I've made these waffles. We absolutely LOVE them at my house. There's just something wonderful about them. They're nice and light inside with a bit of a crispy outside. SO SO SOOOOO good.

One of Ms. Moskowitz's recommendations is to add some chopped pecans to the batter just before cooking, so I tried that for part of my batch. It was really good. But, I like the plain waffle with a little vegan butter the best. Maybe next time I'll add some fruit. Who knows. But, I do know that this is definitely one of my all-time favorite waffle recipes ever. The recipe is on page 98 of the excellent Vegan Brunch.

For all of the recipes I've tried so far, I give the book a 4.5 out of 5. I love it. Snag a copy at your public library or local bookstore. And, by the way, no one has sponsored this post. I just wanted to share my love for my recent fave cookbook.

09 May 2011

Aloo Gobi - Vegan and Rockin'

Alrighty. Now, this dish is not pretty. It's not photogenic. But, it tastes freaking awesome. I have a love of many Indian dishes, but for some reason, I'd never tried Aloo Gobi before now. I was staring into my nearly empty fridge today, trying to avoid a trip to the grocery store, when I spied a head of cauliflower and a few potatoes in the veggie drawer. Hmmm. Lightbulb!

After doing a quick search online, I found that there was a name for what I was about to attempt. Shit, I had no idea there was a name. I was just thinking it was a cauli curry. So, anyway, I decided to give it a shot. I didn't use a recipe, I just threw some stuff together. I think next time I'll add either some peas or some chickpeas. This time, I just stuck to the basics: cauliflower and potatoes. I ate mine on some garlic naan, which I learned how to make a few months ago. So freaking delicious. I can't even believe how easy it was to make.

This recipe makes enough for 3-4 as a main dish, especially if you serve it with some naan. It would be good with pitas, too. If I used a pita, I'd make a garlic butter and brush it on the bread then toss it in the oven for a few minutes. Yummmm!

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into a 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 small red onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 TB canola oil
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 TB curry powder, mine was a basic McCormick brand curry powder
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flake
  • dash madras curry powder
  • salt and pepper to your tastes
  1. In a large flat skillet that has a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions, spices, and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. 
  2. Add the potatoes and cauliflower and mix very well. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes and cauliflower are covered in spices. Then add the lid and turn heat to medium-low. Stir every few minutes so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. If your lid doesn't have vents, you will need to put your lid off-kilter to let some of the steam escape.
  3. Cook about 15-20 minutes, or until the cauliflower and potatoes are cooked to your liking. I like mine a little softer, so it took about 19-20 minutes. Taste and adjust your seasonings, if you need to. Maybe it's just me, but it seems to get more flavorful as it cools. And it was awesome as all hell on the garlic naan.

06 May 2011

The reason for my recent absence...

Hello Readers. I know there are at least a few of you folks popping by everyday, so I just wanted to update you on something special. I've been absent here for about a week because of a project I've been working hard on. I just built a raised bed garden so I can grow some veggies and fruits organically in my own yard. I've been dying to do it and I really hope it's going to pay off and save me money in the long run.

The bed itself is about 3'x6' and can hold a surprising amount of plants. I built mine of cinderblocks because it's sturdy and won't rot, unlike many woods. Plus, it was cheaper than wood. The fencing is all re-used from my yard at my old house. And the dirt a combo of new and old. I try to keep things inexpensive and easy while reusing items whenever I can. Now I'm just hoping my thumbs are as green as my lifestyle! So, here are some photos chronicling the progress of the garden.

I know it certainly isn't the prettiest thing in the world, but it'll get the job done. And, like I already said, it was cheap! I decided to plant things in the holes of the blocks to maximize my space. There are squash and zucchini in some, others hold garlic, and the back side is full of alium, which is said to keep some critters away because it smells like garlic. Another great part of the raised garden is that you can control what happens in your soil. My soil is a mix of peat, gardening soil, and some topsoil. I added some earthworms and some compost to keep the soil nice and rich. As for the fencing, I added a little chicken-wire around the bottom to keep out the little bunnies that call my yard home.

Here's what I have growing:
Broccoli, sweet peas, summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, romaine, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, red onion, garlic, and baby watermelon. Just a plant or 2 of everything.

For me, the raised bed is ideal since we have terrible soil. The majority of it is actually clay. We have less than an inch of topsoil, as you can see from the massive bare spots all over the yard! But, slowly and surely grass is coming up. The people that lived here before us never planted any grass at all, so it has been a nightmare and a half trying to re-vamp the yard. But, enough about that. Time to get back to cooking!