Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dreena Burton's Plant-Powered Families: A Review, a Recipe, and a Giveaway!

Photo courtesy of BenBella Books

As you now know, I am recently back from a trip to New Mexico, where I was traveling with one extremely picky pre-schooler (the baby is a good eater, thank goodness). I am ashamed to admit how many meals he made out of french fries, or pasta, or some other carb... he seems to be on a carb-only diet these days, and I'm not sure how that happened.

Weary from having eaten mostly restaurant meals for the past two weeks and desperate to cook something healthy and homemade that might tempt the youngster, as soon as I got home I turned to my new copy of Dreena Burton's Plant-Powered Families. This cookbook is full of healthy, straight forward, easy to make, kid-friendly recipes that the whole family can enjoy, from Pumpkin Seed & Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Breakfast Bars to Artichoke Sunflower Burgers and Lemon-Kissed Blondie Bites.

The Smoky Bean Chili caught my eye, as I am still savoring the flavors of the southwest. It features three types of beans: chickpeas, red lentils, and kidney beans (although I substituted pintos for those). It also has plenty of vegetables and a touch of lime juice to really brighten it up. It was both healthy and delicious, and the publisher has graciously granted me permission to reprint the recipe below.

If you want to win your own copy of Plant-Powered Families, leave a comment on this post, and tell me your favorite family-friendly vegan meal to make. A winner will be selected on July 27th.

Smoky Bean Chili
I’ve made many batches of vegan chili over the years. This kid-friendly version draws on smoked paprika for a spicy essence that isn’t too hot. Try leftovers in Ta-Quinos (in full cookbook).

Serves 5–6

1–2 tablespoons plus ¾–1 cup water, divided
1½–2 cups diced onion
1½ cups diced green and red bell pepper (3/4 cup of each; see note)
½-¾ cup diced celery
½ cup diced carrot
1¼ teaspoons sea salt
4–5 cloves garlic, minced
1-1½ tablespoons mild chili powder
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (see note)
1–2 pinches cinnamon
Dash of crushed red pepper flakes or hot sauce to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 can (28 oz) or box (26 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 can (14 oz) chickpeas (see note)
1 can (14 oz) kidney beans
¾ cup red lentils, rinsed
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons blackstrap molasses
1–2 tablespoons lime juice
Lime wedges for serving

In large pot over medium heat, add 1–2 tablespoons of the water, onion, green and red bell pepper, celery, carrot, and sea salt. Stir, cover, and let cook for a few minutes.

Then, add the garlic, chili powder, oregano, dry mustard, smoked paprika, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Stir through and cover again, cooking for another 4–5 minutes. Reduce heat if veggies are sticking to bottom of pot.

Add the crushed tomatoes, chickpeas, kidney beans, remaining ¾-1 cup water, lentils, bay leaves, and molasses and stir to combine. Increase heat to bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25–30 minutes, until lentils are softened. Stir in lime juice and serve portions with lime wedges.

Bell Peppers Note: If your kiddos aren’t fond, you can reduce the measure—and chop very, very fine!

Smoked Paprika Note: Smoked paprika adds a smoky spicy flavor rather than a hot spicy flavor to dishes, so many children enjoy the taste. It’s a great addition to a flavorful pantry!

Beans Note: You can substitute other beans like pinto or black beans. Also try mashing chickpeas slightly to add more interesting texture.

Idea: After cooking this chili, remove a portion for the adults and kick it up with some regular hot sauce, or even better to complement the smoky essence—chipotle hot sauce!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Vegan Good Things in New Mexico! Part 2

Cafe Pasqual's in Santa Fe, NM

So to continue my posts recapping my recent trip to New Mexico, we definitely found the best vegan eats of our trip while in Santa Fe. We had a truly spectacular dinner one evening at the famed Cafe Pasqual's, where they have only a few, but extremely well thought out, vegan options. The two enchilada dishes can be easily veganized if you omit the cheese, but having already had enchiladas for lunch that day, we opted for the Quinoa Burger and the Bengal Red Lentil Stew. The burger is a delectable mix of quinoa, minced portobello mushrooms, sweet potato, and zucchini, topped with tomato chutney and fried shallots. Scrumptious. 

Quinoa Burger

I have to say that my favorite, though, was the Red Lentil Stew. The description was deceptively simple: Tomato, Green Chile, Spinach, Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Cashews, with Basmati Rice, Green Chutney, and Poppadum. It's hard to describe how elegant and perfectly executed the dish was in actuality. It had bold flavors, just the right amount of heat, and was so perfectly balanced. It was one of the best Indian dishes I've ever had in my life, and it wasn't even in an Indian restaurant. It was a truly memorable meal and well worth the splurge. 

Bengal Red Lentil Stew. Amazing.


We had a few days in Taos, and I have to say I wasn't amazed by any of the food there, although we did find this cute little noodle stand while shopping around. The noodle dishes all start off vegan, although you can customize to add meat if you want. We tried the cold peanut sesame noodles and were amazed at both the portion size and how many fresh veggies were packed in there. Very tasty. 


Cold Peanut Sesame Noodles

On our way from Taos back to Albuquerque, of course we had to make another stop in Santa Fe, just to go back to Body Cafe. I raved about it in my last post, and we couldn't wait to sample something else there. This time I had the breakfast burrito (made vegan) with tofu, curried potatoes, and spinach, covered in New Mexico green chiles and cashew sour cream. Breakfast of champions!  

Tofu & Potato Breakfast Burrito


We had one last truly incredible meal in Albuquerque the evening of our flight, at Annapurna's World Vegetarian Cafe. The service there is, how shall we say? Relaxed. It took us a while to figure out that we had to go up to the counter to order, but the vibe there is so mellow that it didn't bother us to have to figure out their system on our own. Annapurna's offers Ayurvedic vegetarian (mostly vegan) organic food. 

I ordered the two Chapati rolls, stuffed with the vegetables of the day. One had spicy potatoes and the other had a Thai-inspired coconut curried mix of cauliflower, zucchini, and other vegetables. They came with sides of date-tamarind chutney and a spicy coconut chutney.

Chapati rolls, filled with spiced vegetables and sides of date-tamarind and coconut chutney

Anthony got the Veggie Burger, which is a blend of lentils, potatoes, brown rice, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms and spices. Delicious, and even better when topped with the side of chipotle vegenaise they offered.

Veggie Burger

I ordered some rice and dal for my picky son, since he will usually agree to eat those, but I was actually most excited about the kitchari that they had on the kids's menu (a larger portion is on the regular menu too). Kitchari is a very home-style type of dish, and I have only had it homemade by Indian friends, and I believe this is actually the first time I saw it on a restaurant menu. Kitchari is basically a rice and lentil dish, with vegetables, turmeric, and other mildly soothing spices, all cooked down together until soft and rather mushy. It is a dish that is often given if you're not feeling well, and you need something comforting and easy to digest. It is also often the first solid food given to babies. I love it, I find it to be one of the ultimate comfort foods - soothing, satisfying, and also delicious. (Note to self: why have I never made this at home? I must learn.) I was happy that my baby ate it and seemed to enjoy it.

Kitchari (in the foreground) with sides of rice and dal

And there you have it, the culinary highlights of our New Mexico vacation. It's funny, for months we'd been planning our trip and talking about all the amazing Mexican food we were going to eat, but with the exception of the raw enchiladas at Body Cafe, we were mostly disappointed in that department. We had several meals of subpar beans and rice that were not worth reporting. Our best finds were, strangely, mostly Indian or other Asian food. 

Not to fret, though, because if you're still craving the flavors of the southwest, like I am, for my next post I have lined up a review of Dreena Burton's Plant-Powered Families, along with her recipe for Smoky Bean Chili and a cookbook giveaway! Stay tuned. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Vegan Good Things in New Mexico! Part 1


My little ones at Farmhouse Cafe in Taos, NM

Hi everyone! It has been SO long since I've had the chance to write a travel blog post. If my memory is correct, the last one was waaay back in 2012 when we went to Germany to visit my family. We just don't manage to travel as much since we've had kids, just the thought of packing up all the diapers, wipes, sippy cups, snacks, and other gear that they need is enough to make me exhausted and scrap any plans. But we finally made it out to New Mexico to visit my in-laws and take a much needed vacation. It was my first time in New Mexico ever, and of course I was really excited to sample all the local good things to eat.

Our first stop was in Roswell, where my in-laws live, and where it seems that aliens might be easier to find than decent vegan food. We survived only because we were able to eat with our family at home, and because we could cook in our hotel room's kitchenette. Roswell is a town of chain food restaurants and fast food, and vegan options are pretty much nonexistent. Our hotel was right by an Applebee's, and we attempted to piece together a vegan dinner there one evening. Our very nice server offered to make me an off-menu portobello burger which sounded decent, but when it came out was actually two large, completely RAW portobello caps on a bun. When I requested that they, you know, actually cook the mushrooms a little bit, she admitted that the kitchen had no idea how to make a portobello burger. Clearly, aliens are spotted in those parts more often than vegans.

We did much better eating on the rest of our trip in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos. Our first stop for provisions at the Whole Foods in Albuquerque was a total delight, as we discovered these vegan tamales, which were pretty much what we'd been dreaming of eating since we started planning our trip months ago. Vegan tamales are so hard to find, and I am much too lazy to make them myself, although once in a while we are able to get them in NYC. They even sold frozen vegan tamales at the Whole Foods, and if I could have figured out a way to carry them back home, I would have stocked up.



We found some real gems in Santa Fe, thanks to recommendations from Happy Cow - a life saving resource for vegan travelers! We had one lunch at Thai Vegan, where the food was really tasty and properly spicy. The Pad See Ew was kind of standard, but good. The tofu with basil leaves had plenty of heat and flavor, and the Orange Chick'n that we got for the kids was also tasty, not too sweet, and came with plenty of veggies. The food all tasted fresh and fairly authentic.

Pad Thai with Tofu
Tofu with Basil Leaves
Orange Chick'n

The best find in Santa Fe, by far, was our amazing experience at BODY Cafe. I can't rave enough about how great it is there. In addition to the serene, newly redecorated cafe, they have a selection of baked goods, handmade chocolates, a spa, yoga classes, a beautiful boutique for organic clothing and yoga wear, AND a kids' play space stocked with plenty of toys, art supplies, and minders, if you want to leave the kiddos there while you do a yoga class or eat lunch or whatever. I can't stress enough what an amazing surprise it was to find a mostly vegan cafe WITH A PLAYSPACE FOR THE KIDS. This is basically a vegan parent's holy grail.

We loved the play space, but we loved the food there even more. They have fantastic raw options that rival the best we've had from Pure Food & Wine in NYC. We had the raw enchiladas and a raw pizza. The enchiladas were covered with a delicious New Mexico red chile sauce, cashew sour cream, and filled with cabbage, red bell pepper, corn, and red onion. They were so satisfying and tasted just like "regular" enchiladas, but fresh and crunchy instead of soft and gooey, if that makes sense.

Raw Enchiladas

The raw pizza had a zucchini sunflower crust and was topped with sundried tomato marinara, olives, basil pesto, and a cashew cheese. It was also delicious and satisfying, and tasted fresh and vibrant, instead of dense and heavy, which is exactly what we were craving especially in the hot southwestern climate. The homemade cashew cheese also filled the quesadillas that we got for the kids.

Raw Pizza
Kids' Quesadilla with homemade cashew cheese

Of course we had to try their desserts, so we opted for the raw vegan chocolate ganache torte. It was sublime. Rich, decadent, heavenly. With all the good food and the kids happily playing, we seriously could have stayed there all day, and discussed that as a possibility. If we lived in Santa Fe, I would be at Body Cafe every day. I would just move in. If you are in the area, I can't recommend them enough!

Raw Chocolate Ganache Torte

Stay tuned this week where I will post about the rest of our trip, including another amazing meal in Santa Fe at the famed Cafe Pasqual's, and a review and book giveaway of Dreena Burton's new Plant-Powered Families. Lots of excitement coming up!


Monday, June 1, 2015

Fancy Asian Hot Diggity Dogs! Also, Field Roast is the best.

Yes, this picture is a bit blurry. I am sorry for that.
That is what happens when your spouse changes the settings on your camera without telling you!

Summer weather is here and the vegan cook-outs have begun. In the era of Yeah Dawg and Asia Dog, you can't just make regular ol' veggie dogs with ketchup and mustard anymore. It's all about the fixin's!

But before I tell you about these recipes, I have to tell you about an incident that happened the other week that I STILL feel badly about. It was late at night and I was putting in my weekly Instacart order for my groceries. (For those of you who don't have Instacart in your area, it is the most amazing thing - groceries from Whole Foods or other stores delivered for a low fee directly to your door.) My husband wanted to order some veggie dogs, so I clicked on the Field Roast Frankfurters to add them to my cart. In the new window, the ingredient list popped up and I happened to notice - right there in the ingredient list! - EGG WHITES. Now maybe it was late at night and I was too tired to rationalize, or perhaps we'd seen too many vegan products in the past suddenly start slipping in non-vegan ingredients like egg whites or whey or milk powder or something, but my vegan outrage flared its ugly head and I did what modern day people do when outraged about something... I TWEETED ABOUT IT.

Now the next morning after a night's rest when I was thinking more clearly, we worked out that the ingredient list was just wrong, it was for a different product, and that of course Field Roast had not wavered in their commitment to providing top-notch quality all-vegan products (which was, of course, confirmed by their Twitter reply). I can't believe I ever doubted them for a second! I immediately tweeted a correction to the previous night's accusation, hoping to undo any damage done. So, lesson learned, never assume the worst and always investigate further before passing on dubious information! And also, never tweet late at night. No good comes from that.

This is what happens when an otherwise vegan product is ruined by the unnecessary addition of egg whites or other stupid dairy products
So it is with utmost pleasure that I can resume (not that I had a chance to actually stop) eating Field Roast Frankfurters, which honestly are, by FAR, the best tasting veggie dog on the market. They are a little pricey, so we don't buy them every week, but they are so much tastier than the other brands. When I came across recipes recently for Kogi Dogs and another for Bahn Mi Hot Dogs (not found online), I knew I wanted to make them with the Field Roasts. And they were SO GOOD!

The Kogi Dogs are a recipe from the famous Roy Choi and are topped with cabbage slaw, kimchi, sesame mayo, cheddar, and drizzled with Sriracha. I don't know if Choi is the first one to pair kimchi and cheddar, but it is GENIUS. If you like the spicy, funky flavors of kimchi, like I do, then you will love this recipe. The Bahn Mi dog is topped with pickled carrot and onion, mayo, jalapeno, and cilantro. The pickled veggies give it such a fresh, vibrant, crunchy bite and the jalapeno adds a nice little bit of heat. The Bahn Mi dog is very similar to Asia Dog's "Vinh" option, if you wanted to do it their style, you could add a smear of Faux Gras in place of the pâté, which is a classic Bahn Mi topping.

Both recipes are below. These were truly some of the tastiest veggie dogs I have ever had, so I highly recommend at your next cookout (or cook-in) to throw together these very quick and easy toppings and let everyone help themselves. I don't usually give beverage recommendations but these are really begging to be had with a nice cold beer, or at least a chilly margarita. ;)

Kogi Dogs
veganized version of this recipe from Roy Choi

Serves 8

2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 large scallion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (I recommend Vegenaise or Just Mayo)
Vegetable oil
1 cup kimchi, drained and patted dry (if you aren't near a Korean grocery, I bought Mother In Law's Napa Cabbage Kimchi from Whole Foods)
8 hot dog buns, split
1 cup shredded vegan cheddar (I recommend Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds)
8 vegan hot dogs, partially split (I recommend Field Roast Frankfurters)
2 cups shredded romaine
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cups cilantro sprigs
Sriracha, for drizzling

  1. In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, scallion and lime juice; season with salt and pepper. In a mortar, pound the sesame seeds until crushed and transfer to a small bowl. Stir in the vegan mayonnaise and season with salt.
  2. In a nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the kimchi and cook over high heat until browned all over, 3 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle vegan cheddar shreds on the inside of buns and toast for a few minutes, until buns are warmed and cheese has melted. Spread the cut sides of the buns with the sesame mayonnaise.
  4. Grill the veggie dogs over moderately high heat until nicely charred all over, about 3 minutes. Tuck the hot dogs into the buns with the kimchi and vegan cheddar. Top with the cabbage salad, romaine, onion and cilantro sprigs. Drizzle a little Sriracha on top and serve.

Bahn Mi Hot Dogs
veganized version of recipe found in Cooking Light, June 2015 issue

Serves 8

2 large carrots, peeled and then shaved into large ribbons with a vegetable peeler
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
2 tsp. sugar
8 vegan hot dogs (I recommend Field Roast Frankfurters)
8 hot dog buns
1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise (I recommend Vegenaise or Just Mayo)
2 jalapenos, thinly sliced (discard seeds if you want it less hot)
cilantro, for garnish

1. Combine carrots, red onion, cider vinegar, water, and sugar in a medium bowl. Let stand 15 minutes. Drain and discard pickling liquid.

2. Grill the veggie dogs over moderately high heat until nicely charred all over, about 3 minutes. Spread each bun with 1 1/2 teaspoons of vegan mayo, then place 1 hot dog in each bun. 

3. Top veggie dogs evenly with carrot and onions, 3 jalapeno slices, and a sprinkle of cilantro leaves. 


Thursday, May 14, 2015

VEGAN GOOD NEWS!


I'm posting this picture of the delicious vegan Pad Thai that I got for lunch on Mother's Day from Dao Palate because, well, I'm way behind on writing a new post for the blog and I just needed something to get your attention. The real reason I'm posting right now is because I have HUGE NEWS to share. The news is: I GOT MY FIRST COOKBOOK DEAL!!!!!

Now, I can't tell you the details of the book but I can tell you that it will come out next year, and it is a specialty cookbook, full of vegan recipes centered around one main type of ingredient. And you will NEVER guess what the ingredient is! I really think this cookbook will make big waves among vegans and omnivores alike. I can't wait to share more with you about it, and will do so as soon as my publisher (that's the first time I've said "my publisher"!) allows.

And if that is not exciting enough, I have even MORE GOOD NEWS! I have yet another new job to tell you about! In just a few short weeks I will be starting as the new Customer Service Manager for Vaute Couture, the innovative and inspiring, eco-conscious and ethical, all-vegan fashion line founded by the animal-loving and lovely Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart. I have made my love for Vaute Couture previously known in this blog, and my husband even photographs her collections sometimes, so I am beyond excited to work with someone whom I both admire and call a friend.

Leanne and I met to discuss this opportunity at Dun-Well Doughnuts, and if there weren't reason enough to join her team, these vegan delights being conveniently located near the new VC headquarters would have sealed the deal. So hooray for vegan doughnuts, hooray for vegan fashion, and hooray for vegan cookbooks! I feel truly blessed to have so many good things - vegan good things! - happening in my life right now. I can't wait to share more with you soon.
xo
Leinana


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spring Veggie Pasta (and adventures in meringue making)


I've got another springy recipe for you today, a lemony pasta loaded with spring veggies, but first an update on the vegan meringue situation in my house. In my last post I told you how I've become obsessed with following this Vegan Meringue page, where people post all of their experiments working with the now-famous aquafaba (aka bean juice). I finally had a chance to try my hand at making some, and I started with the most basic meringue cookie recipe.

My first attempt was a near-hit, but then a miss. The aquafaba whipped up beautifully, just like egg whites, into perfect stiff peaks. But then I got too fancy and decided to add some flavor and coloring. My son was helping, and his favorite color is yellow, so we decided on lemon flavor and yellow coloring. The problem was that my lemon flavor was made from essential lemon oil, and apparently meringues and oil don't mix well, so when I added it (1/2 tsp.) my meringue quickly deflated and turned into a soupy mess. I had to toss it out and start over.

Before flavoring was added
And after. :(
I did add a little yellow color to the second batch, but skipped the flavor, and then used a piping bag to create the cookies. They turned out really good! They are perfectly dry and crisp, but then melt away in your mouth when you eat them. I am still working up the courage to attempt a batch of vegan macarons. I can admit that I'm a little intimidated!

Finished product. Cute little meringue cookies.
And just in case you're wondering what to do with those chickpeas, which now suddenly seem like the leftover part of the can that I have to use up, there's always hummus of course, or you can make a scrumptious Chana Masala (Indian Spiced Chickpeas), like I did, pictured below. I used the recipe at the link, but added some frozen spinach to mine.

Sorry hummus, curry wins every time.

But enough of my adventures in aquafaba-land. Back to lemony Spring Veggie Pasta! I seem to be in a phase where the only dishes I can make that the ENTIRE family will eat are pastas or rice-based dishes. This gets tricky because my husband insists that he only likes "plain" pasta which, for him, is linguine with marinara sauce (I swear, he is more fun and exciting than this makes him sound), but I tire of that quickly and am always looking for more interesting pasta dishes to make. This one has a lemony, light cream sauce, with plenty of veggies. My husband claims to hate cream sauces but apparently the lemon won him over in this one, and he happily ate two generous helpings.  I also love a lemony sauce over pasta, and this one was a perfect spring meal that I will gladly make again. The recipe is from Cooking Light, I just veganized it for you, below.

Spring Veggie Pasta
veganized version of this recipe

serves 4

2 tsp. olive oil
5 oz. thinly diagonally sliced baby carrots (about 1 cup)
1 cup unsalted vegetable stock
3/4 tsp. salt, divided
1 cup fresh asparagus tips
1/2 cup frozen petite green peas, thawed
2 tsp. finely shredded lemon rind, divided
5 oz. vegan cream cheese
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
10 oz. pasta, your choice (I used fusilli, but wide noodles would be good too)
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, mint, or parsley

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add carrots; sauté 1 minute. Add vegetable stock and 1/2 teaspoon salt; simmer 4 minutes. Add asparagus, peas, and 1 teaspoon lemon rind; simmer 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup and vegetables are crisp-tender. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, vegan cream cheese, and pepper to vegetable mixture, stirring with a whisk until smooth.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid.

3. Add noodles to vegetable mixture; toss to coat. Stir in 1/4 cup cooking liquid; add additional cooking liquid as needed to thin sauce. Sprinkle remaining 1 teaspoon rind and dill over pasta mixture. Divide pasta mixture into 4 shallow bowls. Serve immediately.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Risotto Primavera, and a very long aside about vegan macarons!


Happy spring everyone! Since my last post we paid tribute to the goddess Eostre with ancient symbols of fertility and renewed life, by gorging ourselves on vegan jelly beans and a chocolate bunny from our favorite chocolatier Lagusta's Luscious. Or, you know, we celebrated Easter.

Now that we've successfully managed to get the Easter candy out of the house, I swore off any more sweets... until I fell down the rabbit hole that is this Facebook page dedicated to Vegan Meringue. OMG DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS? The whole vegan food blogging community has gone certifiably and justifiably bonkers about this discovery that THE GOOPY LIQUID FROM A CAN OF CHICKPEAS CAN BE WHIPPED INTO A VEGAN MERINGUE! And not just meringues, you guys, we're talking any recipe that traditionally uses egg whites, and yes, I mean... FRENCH MACARONS.

Now if my all-caps excitement doesn't convey how much this means to me, let me tell you. As I have mentioned before in this blog, I lived for 3 1/2 years in Paris while I went to school. It was there where I tasted my first macaron from the famed Ladurée. I received a box as a gift and to this day, in my mind it is one of the best gifts I ever received. The macarons were a revelation. The crisp cookie shell, the way they delicately melt in your mouth when you eat them, and of course all those wonderful colors and flavors. Such beautiful little treats

For the longest time, macarons were probably the ONE thing (yes, even more than cheese) that I missed as a vegan. I remember a few years ago at a holiday party I was talking to a certain vegan cookbook author (yes, you know her, she's one of the most famous ones) and I mentioned how badly I wished I could veganize macarons. She was doubtful that it could be done properly. I thought, "Well if SHE hasn't figured out how to do it, nobody can!" Then fast forward a few years when I discovered Sweet Maresa macarons at one of the Brooklyn Vegan Shop-Ups. My heart leaped! Vegan macarons! They were perfect. It was like I had found the holy grail. Sweet Maresa macarons look and taste perfect, and if you haven't discovered them yet, you should order some up RIGHT NOW. 

But now that someone has discovered the magic of aquafaba (term coined by the now-famous Goose Wohlt, Latin for water = aqua, bean = faba) we can all make our own vegan macarons at home! This is a huge coup for ambitious vegan home bakers. I can't wait to try my first batch. I so desperately want to master those little gems. 

But let's be real, few of us have the time to whip up a batch of macarons (they're not easy). But you do have time to make a nice pot of risotto, and if it's raining where you are today, like it is here, risotto is just the perfect thing. This one has mushrooms and peas, and just a touch of cream, so it is rich and satisfying but not heavy. I got this recipe from Cooking Light and the only thing I did to veganize it was to replace the mascarpone for vegan cream cheese, and I left off the parmesan. You can serve it with vegan parmesan if you want, but I didn't think it needed it. 

Risotto Primavera
veganized version of this recipe

Serves 4 

2 1/2 cups unsalted vegetable stock
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme, divided
4 oz. sliced button mushrooms
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp. vegan cream cheese (vegan sour cream works too)
1 tsp. sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
vegan Parmesan, for serving (optional)

1. Bring stock and 1/2 cup water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to low; keep warm.

2. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 2 minutes or until tender. Add garlic, 2 teaspoons thyme, and mushrooms; cook 4 minutes. Add rice; cook 1 minute, stirring to coat. Add wine; cook 30 seconds, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add 1/2 cup stock mixture to pan; cook 4 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining stock mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring almost constantly until each portion is absorbed before adding the next (about 22 minutes). Remove pan from heat. Stir in peas, parsley, cream cheese, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon thyme and vegan Parmesan cheese, if using.