Friday, January 29, 2010

Good Links: Veggie Burger Taste Test, Vegan Sushi, and PPK's New Etsy Store

Links to some things I liked this week:
  • I know I link to them at least once a week, but The Kitchn posts gorgeous photos like this watermelon radish:

  • C'est La Vegan posted some yummy sounding vegan sushi recipes. I'd definitely like to try making the spicy tempeh roll recipe.
  • And lastly, my vegan idols over at Post Punk Kitchen have an Etsy store with adorable aprons and great looking t-shirts.

And speaking of Post Punk Kitchen, are you heading to a Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti? Info and a Google sign-up doc if you want to bake is on this Facebook page. I'll be at Moo Shoes this Sunday with my carrot cupcakes!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Apple Bundt Cake with Brown Sugar Syrup

My husband says this picture looks like meatloaf. Crap. I thought it looked like a slice of apple bundt cake, but now that he mentioned it, all I see is...meatloaf.

We somehow ended up with a huge bagful of apples. Leftover props from a photo shoot. Sometimes we get to bring home flowers, or fabric used for backdrops, one time we even got to bring home a brand new sectional couch from Ikea (by far our biggest score to date). But this time it was apples.

I'm not that big a fan of apple pie. There, I said it. I mean, it's ok, but I could live without it. So whenever A. brings home a bagful of apples and suggests making a pie, my eyes kind of glaze over. Maybe it's just because the thought of making a crust fills me with dread. No, it's because apple pie just doesn't thrill me.

What does thrill me is the prospect of breaking in a new bundt cake pan. I don't know what it is about bundt cake pans, but just the fact that I own one makes me feel like a 50's housewife or Betty Freaking Crocker. But I mean that in a good way. They're so retro. I just might make it my personal mission to bring bundt cakes back into fashion.

I found this recipe for Apple Cake in Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's The Joy of Vegan Baking. The pumpkin cheesecake I made from this book was so wildly successful, I was eager to try another recipe.

There are a few things I will say about this recipe. It is strange. It mentions that after you mix all the ingredients, you will have a "pretty thick batter." What you have is a huge block of dough. It seems more like a giant ball of cookie dough than any kind of cake batter I've ever seen. You have to use a spoon or spatula to kind of press the dough into the pan, it's so dry. I thought it was pretty bizarre, but the cake turned out just fine so I suppose that's what the batter is supposed to look like before you bake it.

The other strange thing about this recipe is how it instructs you to top it with the brown sugar syrup. You're supposed to pour the syrup over the cake while it's still in the pan after you take it out of the oven. Then you're supposed to invert the cake onto a plate, then invert it again onto another plate, with the syrup topping side up. Now, if you follow these directions, you would end up with an upside-down cake. That would be fine if you were actually making an upside-down cake, or if you are using a flat-bottomed pan, but if you are using a bundt pan, as the recipe suggests, then you would end up with an upside-down bundt cake, which would look ridiculous. So I immediately inverted the cake onto a plate when it came out of the oven, and poured the syrup over the top. I don't know why the recipe tried to complicate the situation.

The ingredient list calls for three cups of peeled and chopped apples. Unfortunately this only amounted to two of our apples, when I was hoping to use up at least five or six. At any rate, you add the apples to a pretty standard cake mixture of flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, sugar, oil, and vanilla. Her recipe also calls for Ener-G Egg Replacer, as do most of her recipes as far as I can tell.

The cake comes out surprisingly moist but dense and filling. You could easily dress this cake up with dried fruits and nuts, as well as other spices, to make this more of a holiday fruitcake-y type of thing. The brown sugar syrup adds just the right hit of sweetness that the cake needs - best when it is served still warm, but after it cools it hardens into a sweet, almost crunchy outer layer. With a scoop of our absolutely favorite vanilla ice cream and a cup of chai tea, this was a wonderful winter dessert. And it was easy as - no, make that easier than- pie.

Good and Quick: Udon Soup with Miso

This is a nearly instant weeknight dinner, light and simple but satisfying. This was kind of a throw-whatever's-in-the-fridge into a soup pot kind of thing, but I'll try to approximate the ingredients for you in the recipe below.

Udon Soup with Miso (2 servings)
3 cups of water
2 7-oz. packages pre-cooked udon noodles
2 Tbsp. white miso paste*
2 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1 bunch baby bok choy, sliced
1/2 cup fresh shitake mushrooms
2 green onions, sliced
tofu or seitan, optional
Shichimi Togarashi, to taste**

1. Bring water to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, add greens, mushrooms, noodles, and seitan or tofu, if using.
2. When vegetables are softened/wilted, stir in miso paste and soy sauce. These are the quantities that were to my taste, feel free to add more miso/soy sauce to suit yourself.
3. Ladle noodles and veggies into two bowls. Ladle broth over top. Top with green onions and a liberal sprinkle of the shichimi togarashi/red pepper mix.

I just happened to have leftover slices of tofu from my Korean takeout last night. These were perfect on top of the soup. But if you don't happen to have my leftovers in your fridge, any kind of tofu or even seitan would be delicious with this soup. It would also be perfectly good, though a little less filling, with just the veggies in it.

*Make sure to check labels when buying miso paste or any kind of miso soup base. These sometimes include bonito, which is a fish product ubiquitous in Japanese cuisine, especially in making soup stocks like dashi.
**I know this may seem like an obscure ingredient, but this is one of my favorite secret seasonings and worth a trip to an Asian grocery to find. I'm confident that any place selling Japanese goods will have it. It is a mix of red pepper, roasted orange peel, yellow sesame seed, black sesame seed, Japanese pepper, sea weed, and ginger. It is mildly spicy but very aromatic and adds a complexity to what would otherwise be a pretty bland soup. If you ever buy udon soup somewhere and they ask you if you want it spicy, then sprinkle some red powdery mixture on your soup, this is probably what they're using.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lazy Tuesday: Korean Takeout

Clockwise, from top left: Egg-free kimchi pancake, glass noodles with vegetables, garlic stems with chili paste, braised tofu with scallions. Center: vegetable kimbap

I am lucky enough to work just blocks from NY's Koreatown, not to mention that my close friend and co-worker L. is Korean, and can always steer us to the best eats and bargains in the neighborhood. One of our favorite lunch places is Woorijip, which has some of the tastiest take-out in town, and some of the cheapest deals you'll find in the city to boot.

Woorijip is hardly vegan. They serve plenty of meat, but there is such an enormous selection and variety of vegan dishes you won't feel neglected. On the contrary. You may even start to feel spoiled.

Korean food can be incredibly veg-friendly. While most people know about kimchi, the highly seasoned fermented cabbage (although you can make it with other vegetables) dish with plenty of garlic and chili pepper, you may not know that traditional Korean meals are served with several banchan, or side dishes, which are usually a variety of seasoned vegetables and salads.

My takeout selection tonight included Kimchi Jeon, or egg-free kimchi pancakes. Being as they're small fritters fried in oil, they're kind of like latkes or Indian pakoras, except they're Korean, and made with flour, onion, and kimchi. Next on the list is Japchae, or glass noodles with vegetables. These noodles are tossed with a sweet soy and sesame oil sauce, which makes them sweet and savory and incredibly addictive. I love these noodles. I got some vegetable kimbap, which you may be tempted to call sushi, but it's not sushi. It's rice and vegetables wrapped in seaweed, which sounds a lot like sushi to me, but I've learned that it's not sushi. At any rate, this was filled with spinach, carrot, and some pickled radish, which gives it a slightly tart, slightly sweet, snappy crunch and a nice splash of bright yellow color. Another favorite of mine is Dubu Jorim, or braised tofu that is topped with red pepper and a soy scallion sauce. It looks like it would be spicy, but it isn't. It is incredibly flavorful though and a simple but delicious way to prepare tofu. And lastly I had just a bite of some garlic stems (I don't know the Korean name for these) that were sauteed with a red pepper paste and big chunks of garlic. A little goes a long way with this stuff. And also, you need to make sure your partner takes a bite too, because it will leave you with some ferocious breath. But like all things good and garlicky, it's totally worth it.

I often get lunch at Woorijip for $5 or less, which is quite a feat in NYC. They thoughtfully place a "Veg" sticker on all the veg options, and clearly label things that are egg-free as well. Although they have tables, it's more of a take-out place, but what it lacks in ambience it more than makes up for with quality and value. In the midst of so many Korean eateries, this one is a real gem. Just don't go in asking if they have sushi.

12 West 32nd St. (between 5th Ave. and Broadway)
NY, NY 10001

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How to Make Stuff Good: Roast It!

With all the casserole-type things we've been eating lately, and the pizza two nights in a row, I felt like having something a bit lighter this evening. Sometimes you just want to taste, well, veggies, you know? Also, I had a bunch of stuff in my fridge that I needed to eat before it went bad.

I made a very simple plate of roasted cauliflower, roasted sweet potatoes, and steamed kale. I bought a Romanesco cauliflower at the farmer's market purely because I was seduced by its unusual and exotic beauty. Instead of being white with rounded florets, the Romanesco variety is a pale lime green, with pointy florets. It almost looks like a bouquet of miniature Christmas trees. I had no idea if it tasted any different from normal cauliflower, I just knew that I had to have one.

I can't say I noticed a dramatic difference in flavor. It pretty much tastes like cauliflower. But the revelation for me was how incredibly good cauliflower tastes when roasted. It's the perfect thing for a winter evening. Roasting transforms what is, let's face it, a normally bland vegetable into something magical - it brings out the sweetness, nuttiness, and you get that incredible caramelized flavor and slightly crisped edges. I had no idea how much I liked cauliflower until I tried roasting it. I just cut up the head into bite size pieces, tossed them with olive oil in a large bowl (enough to evenly coat all the pieces), added salt, pepper, and some crushed red pepper, and roasted them at 375 for about 12 minutes. Then I turned the pieces over in the roasting pan, drizzled a little more olive oil on top, and roasted them another 10 minutes or so.

I also roasted the sweet potatoes at the same time. I cut up one sweet potato into small cubes, and drizzled it with olive oil, salt and pepper, just like the cauliflower. The sweet potatoes needed about 5 minutes longer in the oven than the cauliflower to soften. Once they came out, I sprinkled about a teaspoon of brown sugar and few dashes of cinnamon on them, then mixed them to coat. Easy as pie.

The kale was even easier - I just steamed it and served it my usual way, with some Earth Balance, lemon pepper, and a few splashes of Bragg's Liquid Aminos. I was very satisfied and happy with this dinner - there were a lot of flavors, textures, and colors on the plate, and it made me feel like I was eating something fairly healthy without skimping on taste or variety.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Good Links: Vegan Yum Yum, Homemade Bouillon, and Unhealthy Agave?

Links to things I liked this week:
  • The Amateur Gourmet throws a vegetarian dinner party, and shares an amazing-sounding recipe for mushroom bourguignon. This really appeals to my inner vegan Julia Child. (Note: his recipe calls for egg noodles and sour cream, for garnish. These could be easily veganized.)
  • The Kitchn has a very informative article that calls into question the healthfulness of agave nectar.

Good and Quick: Mushroom & Sausage Pizza

A few weekends ago, I had dinner with some friends at PALA Pizza on Allen St. This is officially one of my new favorite places to eat in the city. A full half of their menu is vegan, and even their non-vegan items can be made gluten-free, making this pretty much the perfect restaurant to go to with people of any type of dietary concerns. While there, I had their pizza "funghi e salsiccia," otherwise known as "mushroom and sausage," topped with Field Roast Italian Sausage, mushrooms, Daiya cheese, and hot peppers. YUM. I went crazy for this pizza, but the best testament to its tastiness was that it completely fooled one of the meat-eaters at the table. She just couldn't believe that it was vegan. I love those moments when a non-vegan realizes that vegan food can actually be awesome.

So needless to say, I've been dreaming about their sausage pizza ever since. I made my own version of it last night, and while it wasn't as good as PALA's, it was pretty darn good. Full confession: I bought Whole Foods' own brand of fresh whole wheat pizza dough and pizza sauce. It was Friday night, I was exhausted from working all week, and I wanted something quick to make for dinner. Yes, I could have made my own dough, and my own sauce, but I was too tired. Don't judge me.

I sauteed in olive oil half a red onion, two chopped cloves of garlic, some crushed red pepper flakes, about a cup of sliced mushrooms, and two Trader Joe's Italian Sausages, cut into slices. (The Field Roast Italian Sausages are much tastier, but the Trader Joe's brand is a decent and less expensive substitute, and that's what I had on hand.) I used half the amount of dough from Whole Foods, to make a thinner crust. I rolled it out onto a pizza pan, topped it with an even layer of sauce, and then with the sausage/mushroom/onion mixture. Sprinkle some grated soy mozzarella on top and then bake it in a preheated oven at 450 for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted on top and the crust is golden brown. When it comes out, top with a chiffonade of fresh basil. It serves two people, and I still have enough ingredients for another pizza today.

This was super delicious and so easy to make I had it ready in time to watch the Hope for Haiti telethon. And speaking of Haiti, I'm signed up to make carrot cupcakes on January 31st at the Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti at Moo Shoes. If you haven't signed up yet for a bake sale in your city, there's still time!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Seitan and Vegetable Enchilada with Spicy Mole Sauce

I was going to write this post this last night, but I had a kitchen meltdown while making these suckers. Tears were involved. Gods were cursed. It was like that scene in Julie and Julia where Julie is laying on her kitchen floor having a breakdown next to a raw whole chicken, except minus the dead bird part.

This was my absolute favorite from the casserole class, and I'd been eagerly anticipating recreating these at home. I started with the mole sauce. You begin by toasting sesame seeds, peanuts, almonds and raisins in a frying pan. Oh man it smells SO GOOD. Also, the raisins plump up like little inflatable beach balls, which is cute. Meanwhile, you soak dried ancho chilies in some water until they soften. That was the easy part. The next step in the recipe tells you to add the nut mixture and chilies to your food processor with SEVEN CUPS of water, then puree. This was when the first disaster happened. I thought, "Wow, that definitely looks like way too much liquid for the food processor," but instead of using common sense I decided to tempt fate and turn the processor on, thinking if I just held the lid on REALLY TIGHT it would be ok, because I'm just following the directions, right? Wrong. The liquid sort of blurped out of the processor all over my counter, kind of like a lazy volcanic eruption. You'd think I'd learn my lesson after that, right?

Wrong. At this point, I pulled out my blender. I ladled as much of the liquid as I could from the food processor to the blender (were they using some kind of industrial sized processor in our class, or what?) and then blended that until smooth. Except that my blender only held about half of the total amount. So you know what I did then? I thought, "Well this is much less liquid, maybe I can just do the rest in the processor now." BLURP. All over the counter again. Another mess to frantically clean up. So I ladled yet another batch of the liquid into the blender, pureed, and then put this second batch into a large pot along with the first one. At this point I still had most of the solid bits (nuts & raisin mixture along with big pieces of chilies) in the processor with very little liquid, so I was able to puree this successfully, after which I added it to the pot with the rest of the mix and stirred it all together, brought it to a simmer, and whisked in some bittersweet chocolate. When this sauce gets simmering, it smells so good you'll want to dunk your head in it.

Compared to the mole sauce, the enchiladas were a breeze to make and assemble, except for the part when I opened my pantry door to grab something and an entire canister of powdered sugar fell off the shelf and spilled all over my kitchen floor. This was when full meltdown ensued. I had to grab Bella, my ever watchful kitchen helper, before she tried to do her best Tony Montana/Scarface impression and put her in the other room while I cleaned up yet another mess while simultaneously trying to keep the filling mixture (pinto beans, ground seitan, carrrots, mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, garlic, and spices) from burning on the stove. Whew.

After all this, I somehow managed to assemble the enchiladas without incident. You just spread some of the mole sauce on the bottom of a lasagna-type dish. Then you spread some mole onto a tortilla, add about 1/2 cup of the filling, and a sprinkle of vegan monterey jack cheese, then roll it up and put it in the baking dish. I ended up with six enchiladas, which I topped with more mole sauce and some more jack cheese. (Note: I used Vegan Gourmet Monterey Jack Cheese, and it didn't melt for shit. Argh. I will not be using this brand again.)

Was it worth the trouble? I'd have to say yes. These are SO GOOD. The flavors in these enchiladas are deep and complex. Or as my husband would say, they're "action-packed." They're nutty, smoky, and slightly spicy. The seitan makes them meaty without being too faux-meaty, and with the spices in the filling and the mole sauce, your taste buds will be doing a happy dance. Next time I'll likely make the mole sauce a day ahead. And keep a mop handy to clean up the mess.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tempeh & Vegetables in Spicy Lemon-Coconut Broth

This is another dish I learned in my recent "Vegetarian Winter Casseroles" class, although I can't figure out why this recipe was included. It's not a casserole, at least not the can-of-mushroom-soup/cheesy broccoli-type thing that I usually imagine when I hear the word "casserole." The class might have been more aptly titled "Winter Braising," because that seems to be what all the recipes had in common. This one was a hit with the class and I couldn't wait to try it again.

The recipe is included in Peter Berley's The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. I stayed pretty true to the recipe except for the addition of about two cups of green beans - I had them in my fridge and I didn't want them to go bad. This seems like a very versatile recipe in which you could include any number of vegetables, depending on what you have or like.

After all the tempeh and vegetables cooked, there was just enough broth to coat everything. I added a bit of water to smooth it out and make a little more liquid. It's more of a thick stew than a soupy, curry-type dish. The lemon zest and juice, together with the coconut milk and spices, make this incredibly fragrant and flavorful, although I think it's a misnomer to call this a "spicy" broth. It's very mild, not at all spicy. There's a lot of flavor, but no heat. At least not for someone who doesn't admit that something's spicy until I'm sweating and my nose is running. Even if it didn't sear my tongue, it was still delicious and definitely worth making again.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Good Links: Faux Gras, Roasting Veggies, Bake Sales for Haiti, and more

I got nothin' for you today. After a long and tedious week at work, I barely managed to scrape together some leftovers to reheat for dinner. Pathetic, huh? Fortunately it's a long weekend and I plan to test out more of the recipes from my Winter Casseroles class. For tonight though, I'm just catching up on some of my favorite blogs. Below are links to some good things I found this week:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Beer-Braised Kielbasa with Sauerkraut and Onions

I treated myself to a day off from work today, in order to take a cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education. It was the first cooking class I've ever taken, but it was so much fun I'm sure it won't be my last.

The class was "Winter Vegetarian Casseroles," and in about four hours we learned to make EIGHT different dishes. Three of the recipes in the course included cheese, but vegan cheese could easily be substituted, and hey, five out of eight recipes being vegan ain't bad. Strangely, we learned to make enchiladas that were topped with a tofu sour cream, but they had cheese inside. If you don't mind the cheese, then you probably don't care about tofu sour cream, but whatever. The best part of the class, of course, was that after all the dishes were ready we got to sit down and taste them - with wine served too! It was like Thanksgiving all over again. Two glasses of wine with lunch, now that's what I call a day off.

This dish, from The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, was one of the quickest and easiest to make, which was good because after all that cooking earlier today (or was it the wine?) I didn't have much energy to make anything complicated. All I did was thinly slice two medium onions, and saute them in a 1/4 cup of olive oil along with a couple teaspoons brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Once the onions were softened, I added three cups of sauerkraut, two smashed garlic cloves, about a teaspoon of caraway seeds, and two bay leaves. After that was combined, I spread bite-sized pieces of Tofurkey Kielbasa (one package of four sausages, cut into one-inch bites) over the top. In class, we actually made this with one pound of seitan, but to be honest I found the seitan a bit bland. The kielbasa was just right for this recipe. On top of all this I poured 12 oz. of a dark Belgian ale. At Whole Foods I actually found a Green's Dubbel Dark Ale, which is a gluten-free dark Belgian ale made from millet, buckwheat, rice, and sorghum. I wasn't looking for a gluten-free beer, but I thought it sounded interesting so I wanted to try it. And, lucky day, it's officially vegan-friendly on Barnivore . (Did you know not all alcoholic beverages are vegan? Barnivore is a great site with an extensive database of which brands are vegan and which ones are not.) Once you pour the beer over everything, you raise the heat and bring it to a boil. Then you cover the dish and bake it for an hour at 300 degrees.

This dish would be great with any kind of potatoes or root vegetables, but I opted to go a little lighter and just steamed some green beans and served them my standard way: tossed with a bit of Earth Balance, some lemon pepper, and a dash of Bragg's Liquid Aminos.

The sausages and sauerkraut come out of the oven incredibly tender, fragrant, and full of flavor. All of the strong flavors of the ingredients just mellow out and meld together in an incredibly satisfying way. The sauerkraut still has a slight tang to it, but the braising adds a touch of sweetness to it too. If you like beer, you'll definitely like this dish. And if you don't like beer, then, well, what's wrong with you?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Coming Soon: Winter Casseroles!

Just a quick update to share with you my excitement about my plans for tomorrow. I'm taking the day off from work to go to the "Winter Vegetarian Casseroles" cooking class at the I.C.E.! The one-day course will be taught by Peter Berley, author of The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, Fresh Food Fast, and The Flexitarian Table. Just some of the dishes I'll be learning to make tomorrow include: Seitan and Vegetable Enchilada with Spicy Mole Sauce; Phyllo Casserole with Potato, Beets, and Spinach served over Garlicky Braised Lentils; Indian Chickpea Rice and Vegetable Casserole with Gingered Fruit Chutney; Tempeh and Vegetables Braised in a Spicy Lemon-Coconut Broth; Beer-Braised Seitan with Sauerkraut and Onions; and Shepherd's Pie. I can't wait to recreate these dishes at home and share my results with you!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday night dinner: Lemon Gnocchi with Spinach and Peas

It is freezing here and just about the only thing my lazy ass wants to do is hibernate and eat heavy food. If only I had, say, a marathon to run to give me a good excuse for all my carbo-loading. That's really the only appealing thing to me about running a marathon - the pre-race pasta dinner that the runners eat. I'd happily sign up for that part.

I had clipped this recipe out of a Gourmet magazine quite some time ago, and decided to veganize it. The only part that is at all time-consuming is the lemon zesting. I hate zesting. It's so much work and you have so little to show for it in the end. My arm gets tired. I feel like I'm fighting with the lemons. Maybe I should try a microplane type? My little zester doesn't seem to be cutting it.

I have to say this recipe turned out really well. We wanted to lick the plates clean. I don't know what it is about the combination of lemon, cream, and garlic, but it is heavenly. This dish was hearty and filling but somehow the lemon lifted it up and together with the peas and spinach, made it seem almost spring-like. It was more than worth the effort it took to zest a teaspoon's worth of the lemon. My version of the recipe below:

Lemon Gnocchi with Spinach and Peas

  • 1 cup frozen baby peas (not thawed)
  • 3/4 cup plain non-dairy creamer (like Silk brand)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 cups packed baby spinach (3 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pound gnocchi
  • 1/4 cup grated vegan parmesan
Simmer the peas in a skillet with the cream, red-pepper flakes, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until tender, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and cook over medium-low heat, about a minute, until wilted. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and juice.*
Meanwhile, cook gnocchi in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain gnocchi.
Add gnocchi to sauce with cheese and some of reserved cooking water and stir to coat. I used about 1/4 cup of the cooking water, but feel free to add more to thin out the sauce if necessary.
*Don't worry if the sauce looks kind of thin/watery at this point. It thickens up once you add the pasta with the cheese, so that you'll need to thin it out with some of the pasta water.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Vegan Good Things: Go Max Go Vegan Candy Bars

I spent my Saturday morning tasting four different vegan candy bars from Go Max Go Foods. A tough task I set up for myself, I know, but I make these sacrifices for you, loyal readers.

I've been intrigued about these candy bars ever since I saw them in an ad, because I am a total sucker for packaging and I love their bright colors and retro look. Meant to evoke the famous candy bars that you grew up with as a kid, they are like the Proustian madeleine for the vegan crowd.
The Buccaneer is chocolate nougat covered with chocolate. How can you go wrong with that combo?

The Twilight bar has nothing to do with vampires. This one has a "fluffy" layer of nougat topped with a layer of caramel, covered with rice-milk chocolate. I liked this one the best, the nougat had the best texture and there was enough of a contrast, in terms of both flavor and texture, between the two layers. And it very definitely reminded me of this. If only the caramel layer was a little gooier (is that a real word? it looks bizarre when you type it), then this bar would be perfect.

The Jokerz has peanuts, nougat, and caramel, and will certainly satisfy you. It definitely tasted peanutty, although it didn't really look like there were many peanuts in there.

And finally, the Mahalo. I was never really a fan of Almond Joy bars, even though I do like coconut, almonds, and chocolate. Weird, right? But the Mahalo I liked a lot. The sweetened coconut filling was just sweet enough and is topped with three whole almonds.

These candy bars were all tasty and, while they may not be health food, they're certainly a lot healthier than the originals from which they were inspired. I appreciated that they all satisfied my sweet craving without being tooth-achingly-sweet. I wish they didn't include corn syrup, but I'll let that slide because with no hydrogenated oils, trans fats, artificial ingredients, or animal products, life doesn't get much sweeter than this.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Stovetop Vegan Paella

Getting lunch in Whole Foods today, I was roaming around somewhat aimlessly hoping to find inspiration for dinner. I remembered that I had the Whole Foods app on my phone, and I had actually saved some recipes I wanted to try. Looking at my list, I settled on this Stovetop Vegetarian Paella, because it sounded good and not too complicated for a Wednesday night. The only pricey item in this recipe is the $8 I spent on Spanish saffron, which I confess I never bought before and I was kind of excited to try.

A couple of notes about this recipe: it sounded good, but a little bland. I added a 4 oz. package of "Gourmet Blend" mushrooms (baby bellas, oyster, and shitake) as well as two Field Roast Chipotle sausage links, cut into inch-thick slices. (Ok, so the chipotle sausages are Mexican and paella is a Spanish dish, but I didn't have any chorizo sausages and aren't these pretty much the same thing? Don't go getting all picky on me.) I browned the mushrooms in a saute pan (using the method recommended here) then placed them in a bowl to the side. I browned the sausage pieces in the same pan with a little olive oil and put those aside as well. I then followed the recipe as instructed, but needed much more time to cook the rice. This may be because I was using brown basmati rice which generally takes longer to cook than white. At any rate, I cooked the rice for approximately 30 minutes, as opposed to 10 minutes as directed. After adding the peas and cooking for about a minute, so that the peas are warmed through but still firm and bright, I stirred in the mushrooms and sausage. Served with lemon wedges to squeeze over the rice, it was fragrant, flavorful, earthy and just slightly spicy. I think it would have been hopelessly bland without the mushrooms and sausage, together they really added a touch of heat and the extra savoriness that was missing. Is it an authentic paella? To be honest, I don't know that I've ever had one! But for a one pot meal, it was a pretty good thing.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Good Links: Sriracha, Winter Veggies, and Dry Saute Mushrooms

Just a few good links to things I'm reading while I'm stuck at work:

(mushroom photo from The Kitchn website)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lazy Sunday Leftovers

Usually Sundays are my day to make an extra special dinner, to try something new or more time-consuming that I don't have the energy to make during the week, when I get home too late and too exhausted. But this Sunday was too cold and snowy to go out for groceries, and I was full of dread about going back to work after such a blissful holiday break.

My fridge revealed the following: leftover Hoppin' John and Collard Greens, and a variety of salsas and guacamole from New Years. Also, some Field Roast Chipotle Sausages and some soy cheese. Mexican it is!

I'm not going to post an actual recipe because 1) I wasn't measuring, and 2) you could easily adapt this to suit your own tastes with whatever you happen to have on hand. What I did was as follows:

1. Reheat the Hoppin' John (I had about one cup leftover) with two of the chipotle sausages, breaking them up in the pan. Spoon about 1/3 cup of this mixture onto a warm whole-wheat tortilla, top with grated soy cheddar, salsa, guacamole, vegan sour cream (like Tofutti's Better than Sour Cream), a few dashes of hot sauce, roll up and voila! It's a burrito! (Actually this made two slightly over-stuffed burritos and I still had enough for a third one leftover.)

2. Melt about a Tbsp. of Earth Balance in a saute pan over med-high heat. When butter is melted, place a whole-wheat tortilla in the pan. Spread about one cup of the reheated collard greens with raisins in an even layer over tortilla. I happened to have some soy gouda cheese from Fresh Direct, which I sprinkled over the greens and topped with another tortilla. Dot the top tortilla with a few thin pats of butter, then carefully but quickly flip the whole thing over with a large spatula. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Voila! A quesadilla!

The chipotle sausage added a little extra spicy kick to the Hoppin' John, which was already nicely flavored with the creole seasonings. But the real revelation was how well the greens paired with the gouda cheese. The slight sweetness and tanginess of the greens, due to the raisins and orange juice, were a nice contrast to the earthy, creamy gouda. The whole combination was sweet and savory, even better when I topped it with some mango salsa. Who needs to go out when you can scrape together a meal this good with leftovers?