Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The vegan brunch by which all other future brunches will be measured...

Shame on me. I am so hopelessly behind in my blog posts. I assure you I have a few lined up, things I've been meaning to post about, but recently my job has become far more tedious and exhausting than it ever was before, and by the time I get home from work I can barely muster up the energy to throw together some kind of quickie (read: uninspired) dinner before lamenting my swollen ankles and passing out on the couch sometime around 9:30pm. I know, it's a thrilling, sexy life I'm leading, and I'm sure you're all jealous.

But there have been a few highlights to my otherwise stalled social life, namely my baby shower this past weekend thrown by one of my dearest friends in the world. Actually, several very dear friends banded together to throw a vegan brunch feast in my honor and I am still feeling very spoiled days later from it.

Before I went vegan, brunch was easily my favorite meal. Especially living in NY, there is a real brunch culture, and by that I mean people here really love any excuse to get drunk during the day and eat a bunch of food. Once I went vegan, I was momentarily stumped - what would I order at brunch? No more omelets, no more french toast, no more eggs benedict... of course, thanks to invaluable resources like Vegan Brunch, I can recreate my brunch favorites at home, but then you're still missing the social factor that is inherent to the brunch experience.

So when my friend Patricia asked what I wanted to do for the baby shower, it was simple: I wanted brunch with lots of friends. Amazingly, my vegan and omni friends alike got to work on an inspired, all-vegan brunch menu that was enjoyed by all. And by me especially. It really is true that food tastes better when love is the main ingredient.

Here are some of the treats made by the best friends a knocked-up gal could ask for:

Hope made these incredible mini-tofu quiches. Pretty & yummy too!

Sara brought a colorful & fabulous fruit salad.

An array of dishes: Valerie's Roasted Butternut Squash Salad & Cashew Sundried Tomato Spread with crostini, Hope's heavenly biscuits, and Susanne brought my favorite Field Roast Sausages!

Neil had never made vegan french toast before, but I gave him Isa's recipe for Banana Rabanada, and he whipped up a huge batch that was banana french toast perfection. Next to the french toast is gravy to go with Hope's biscuits, roasted potatoes, and two kinds of tofu scramble. Yum!

Close up of the tofu scrambles made by Patricia: one kind was Italian seasoned, the other was more Latin-inspired. Both were delicious.

Better shot of Valerie's beautiful salad

And we had platters of mini cupcakes from Cowgirl's Baking: The Elvis (chocolate cake with banana filling & peanut butter frosting), French Toast (cinnamon vanilla cake with cinnamon maple frosting), and Tiramisu (vanilla cake soaked in coffee with cream cheese frosting). Thank you to Purvi for bringing these!

There were plenty of other bites that I didn't manage to get a shot of, but I am most disappointed that I missed taking pics of Annie's totally addictive pumpkin-spiced mini donuts and Marisa's chocolate chip cookies. (Update: see the picture AND get the recipe for Annie's donuts here!) It was such an array of scrumptious vegan goodies, and I am still completely overwhelmed by the kindness & generosity from our friends.

 If you look closely, you can see Annie's mini pumpkin donuts!

There was a very touching bead/blessing ceremony.

More beading.

 Our beautiful floral blessing bracelets.
Proud papa-to-be.

 C'est moi. (Avec le bump.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's Slow Cooker Time! And Time for Perfect Hominy White Bean Chili

I don't know when summer is officially over, but it's cool and rainy here, and I'm craving everything pumpkin, so as far as I'm concerned, it's officially autumn. And to me, that signals a few things: break out the boots and sweaters, and break out the slow cooker. I don't actually have to "break out" my slow cooker, since it doubles as my rice cooker and I use that all the time, but you know what I mean. It's time to start cooking up some warm, stewy, comforting meals.

I actually made this chili the weekend we were planning to be stuck inside during the hurricane, because I wanted to have a bunch of food that would be easy to reheat on the gas stovetop in case our electricity went out. It's from Robin Robertson's Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, which is a great cookbook although not all the recipes are vegan. I have another vegetarian slow cooker book, which I won't name here, but I'll say that I greatly prefer Robin's. Her recipes seem much more inspired and appealing to me, but that's just my personal preference.

This chili recipe was totally satisfying. I made it a bit spicier by including more jalapeno, and I love the addition of hominy, which also made my husband happy as it is an ingredient he ate a lot as a child and is a part of many Native American diets. Other than cooking the garlic and onion for a few minutes in a skillet, the rest of the ingredients are all thrown together into the slow cooker, given a stir, and 6 to 8 hours later, voila! You have chili! Slow cookers are so brilliant that way. They even give you time to dig out those sweaters and boots from winter storage.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Move over BLT, it's all about Lemongrass Tofu Bánh Mì now

Happy Labor Day everyone! I hope you are enjoying your long weekend of non-laboring and wearing white while you still can. One of the things we did this weekend was to meet some friends for a picnic in Prospect Park - sadly, our first and possibly last picnic this summer. I don't know why we didn't manage to do any picnicking until now... for a while it was simply too hot, or we've been too busy working and dodging hurricanes and stuff.

Anyway, for the picnic I finally made this recipe for Lemongrass Tofu Bánh Mì that I've had bookmarked since forever. If you are not familiar, Bánh Mì are Vietnamese baguette sandwiches that are usually stuffed with meat, pâté, an assortment of crunchy pickled vegetables like carrots and daikon, and fresh herbs like cilantro and/or mint. I absolutely loved this version with the lemongrass-marinated tofu, the pan-fried tofu slices turned out to be juicy, savory, and just slightly spicy. You can follow the recipe as closely as you want, or improvise a bit with your toppings. I followed their recipe for the do chua, which is a quick pickle of carrot and daikon, which went on top of the tofu along with sliced jalapeno, and fresh mint and cilantro leaves. I also mixed up some Vegenaise along with Sriracha sauce and generously spread both sides of the baguette with it. The resulting sandwich is savory, spicy, crunchy, and herbaceous. It's fantastic! It may take a little bit of planning ahead so you have time to marinate the tofu and prepare the pickled vegetables, but it's so worth it.

As far as sandwiches go, you know I love my Coconut Bacon BLT's, but this Lemongrass Tofu Bánh Mì just might be my new favorite. Fortunately there's enough room in my heart (and stomach) for both.