Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Snowy Saturday post.

It's snowing in NY today. That's right. It's not even Halloween, and we have snow. It's really pretty but I'm not ready for winter weather just yet. I'm just starting to ease into wearing sweaters and making big pots of chili and pumpkin desserts... you know, fall stuff. Don't tell me I have to pull out my puffy weather-proof winter coat already.

Fortunately, on this snowy Saturday, my plans consist of baking two different cakes for upcoming blog posts. One is for Big Vegan's virtual potluck and the other is for a guest post I'm doing for Meet the Shannons. Both cakes will be posted on Tuesday, so stay tuned for those, but in the meantime I'll share with you some vegan eats I've had recently in the city.

Cupcakes from Cowgirl's Baking. We got an assortment of flavors from their extensive cupcake menu to taste, and I liked them so much we got a bunch of the mini's to serve at my baby shower.

It's hard for me to order anything other than the butterfinger shake when I'm at Foodswings, but on my last visit I got crazy and ordered a Crunchberry one: strawberry ice cream & cookies. Oh yeah. Good stuff.

Also at Foodswings I got the sliders with a side of their amazing fries. I'm kind of simple when it comes to fries, I like mine plain. But my friend Valerie, as you can see below, gets wild with their disco fries...

Disco fries (covered with gravy and cheeze) and a seitan gyro. All from Foodswings. All delicious.

At a recent event at Moo Shoes, I got to sample these "Bite Sighs" from vegan bakery Sherry's Short Cakes. Oh. My. Goodness. These were unbelievably good. Moist, full of flavor, and decadent. I admit I totally played the pregnancy card and kept going back for another bite (and another) of these delicious morsels. Right now these are available for order online. A perfect gift for the holidays!

We're lucky enough to have a few vegan restaurant options in our Brooklyn neighborhood, and one of our favorites is Dao Palate. They have really tasty pan-Asian food (my favorite main dish is the Citrus Soy Protein) but recently we decided to forgo the savory dishes and just stop in for some tea and dessert. They have what I think might be the best vegan cheesecake I've ever had. This one is their Raspberry White Chocolate slice. Heaven.

And this is their equally heavenly pumpkin cheesecake. To die for. I mean, to live for.

And these pics are from our recent friend-filled brunch at V-Spot in Brooklyn. We started out with some amazing spinach quesadillas...

While a friend started with an order of their famous empanadas. If you go to V-Spot, you must get these.

More starters: Buffalo "Chicken" wings with vegan blue cheese dip

These were my banana wholewheat pancakes. I won the "Who's going to eat more pancakes?" challenge that day.

You can't go wrong with the classic tofu scramble brunch, served with toast, roasted potatoes, and veggie sausage.

Breaded "chicken" patty sandwich.

And finally, a "chicken" burrito.

Now that it's seemingly turned to winter and I have only 3 weeks left until my due date, I'm not sure how often I'll be getting out for vegan eats in the near future. Except for this Tuesday, November 1st, when the Avenue A location of Two Boots Pizza will be giving out FREE SLICES of their all-new vegan pizza! Do I need to repeat? FREE SLICES OF VEGAN PIZZA!!! I will brave rain and storm, perhaps even contractions, to get to that. Hope to see you there.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pasta with Butternut Squash, Fried Sage, and Pine Nuts

They should just rename autumn "butternut squash & pumpkin season," because really, do you want to eat anything else when the weather turns cool and crisp? This is my favorite season, mostly because pretty much anything you cook that involves butternut squash or pumpkin makes your kitchen smell like Thanksgiving.

I found this recipe for Pasta Pan-Fried with Butternut Squash, Fried Sage, and Pine Nuts on one of my favorite sites, The Kitchn. The Kitchn isn't all vegan or even vegetarian, but they certainly post a lot of vegan-friendly recipes. I didn't have to change anything in this recipe except that I used vegan Parmesan instead of the dairy kind.

Fried sage is such a simple, easy thing but it really adds a lot of flavor. And giving the pasta a toss in the pan until it was slightly browned and crispy on the edges added a nice, hearty chewiness to the dish. The recipe says to cook the pasta/squash mixture in two different batches so you have enough room in the pan, but I used a wok and it all fit in one batch. If anything, I would have roasted my squash mixture a bit longer so that it was a little deeper in color and flavor.

This really is a perfect autumnal pasta recipe - it comes together quickly (even more so if you buy your squash already peeled and cubed), and the aromas of the roasting squash, onions, fried sage, and toasted pine nuts are simply intoxicating. So satisfying and delicious!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Baguette French Toast with "Cream Cheese" & Apples

It's the first Big Vegan Virtual Potluck today, and for breakfast I brought Baguette French Toast with "Cream Cheese" and Apples (with a side of some vegan sausages). You know I love a good brunch, and this dish is perfect for a lazy Sunday morning, even better if you have some mimosas on the side. As Robin notes in her book, this is a breakfast that looks like you put a lot more effort into it than you actually did. The only part that really took any time was chopping the apples, but you don't even need to peel them so it wasn't that much work. And the smell of apples and cinnamon cooking with maple syrup is simply heavenly. 

Just a note about the recipe below - I actually used only 3 apples, and that still seemed like plenty. And I might have cut my baguette slices a little thick, so I needed to make a little extra of the rice milk batter. But otherwise this turned out great. I used Tofutti brand cream cheese and it really adds that extra bit of richness that is great with the cooked fruit and spices. A perfect autumnal breakfast!

Make sure to leave a comment for a chance to win your own free copy of Big Vegan! Just answer the question: What's your favorite VEGAN main course to make for the holidays?

Baguette French Toast with "Cream Cheese" & Apples
from Big Vegan
serves 4

2 Tbsp. Earth Balance margarine, plus extra for the pan
4 large Granny Smith apples, chopped
1 cup + 1 tsp. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup vanilla soymilk or rice milk
3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
24 thin slices whole wheat baguette
1 1/2 cups tofu "cream cheese"

1. In a small frying pan over medium heat, melt the margarine. Add the apples and saute, tossing and stirring until they are soft and juicy. Add 1 cup of the syrup and the cinnamon and stir. Bring the syrup to a boil, then take it off the heat and let cool.

2. In a pie pan, whisk together the soymilk, yeast, cornstarch, remaining 1 tsp. syrup, vanilla, and nutmeg. Heat a large cast-iron frying pan or griddle over medium-high heat. When hot, spread with margarine. Dip each slice of bread in the milk mixture to coat, letting it soak for about 1 minute. Drop the slices in the pan and cook for about 4 minutes per side, reducing the heat to medium as they start to sizzle. Flip the slices and cook until they are well browned.

3. Sandwich two cooked slices with 1 Tbsp. of "cream cheese." Serve the French toast sandwiches with the warm apples and syrup.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Very Big Vegan Post

This is a pretty action-packed post. First, I am excited to announce that I am one of the participants in the Big Vegan Virtual Potluck. On Tuesday, October 18th, I (along with others) will post photos and one of the breakfast recipes from Big Vegan. On October 25th, other participants will be posting some of the soup, salad, or small plate recipes, and then on November 1st, I will post both a main course and a dessert recipe. I've seen the virtual "menu" for all the participants and believe me when I say that you are in for some big treats!

I recently had the pleasure of meeting the author, Robin Asbell, whose other cookbooks include The New Whole Grains Cookbook and New Vegetarian, when she taught a Vegan Sauces class at Natural Gourmet. I've written about several classes I've taken before at Natural Gourmet (here, here, and here) but Robin's class was my favorite so far. She was a fun and knowledgeable instructor, and her recipes were all umami-packed and absolutely delicious. Here is a sample of some of the recipes we made that evening (all of the recipes we made can be found in Big Vegan):

Guatemalan Pumpkin Seed Simmer Sauce, with Yucca on a Bed of Quinoa

White Wine & Herb Reduction Sauce over White Bean Crostini

Chinese Sesame Sauce & Quick Seasonal Stirfry over Rice

Bengali Curry Simmer Sauce with Tofu & Brown Rice

Porcini Mushroom Pasta Sauce over Whole Wheat Penne

Creamy Corn & Basil Soup (the creamy soup base is a vegan Bechamel Sauce)

A sample of all the dishes we made in class - also including a Red Wine Reduction over Millet-Cauliflower Puree, and Steamed French Beans with Hollandaise

My other exciting news is that along with this Virtual Potluck I am offering my first ever giveaway! That's right, you can win your own free copy of Big Vegan! Winner will be chosen at random on November 1st. To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment to this post (please make sure to include your email so I can contact you!), answering the question: What's your favorite VEGAN main dish to make for the holidays?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pepperoni Pizza. My Secret Weapon.

So I know that I've been posting sporadically for quite some time now, then all of a sudden I have two posts up in one day. Crazy, right? I'm unpredictable that way.

Anyway, this is just a short post to relate a funny story that happened to me recently. A very close, very dear friend of mine, whom we could refer to as a "vegan flirt," to use one of Alicia Silverstone's favorite terms, recently said in an offhanded, joking manner that she'd consider going vegan, "when someone invents vegan pepperoni."

So I sent her a picture of this. We had just made this vegan pepperoni pizza the day before she made the comment. I'm not going to post a recipe because I really just assembled a bunch of store-bought ingredients: a cornmeal crust from Whole Foods, pizza sauce (use your favorite brand), Daiya mozzarella cheese, and Lightlife Pepperoni-style slices. Sprinkle liberally with fresh or dried basil, oregano, and bake at 450 for about 15 minutes.

It remains to be seen if this pepperoni pizza will in fact convert my friend to veganism, but I hope that it helps prove that being vegan needn't mean depriving yourself of your favorite foods. Even if that food happens to be pepperoni.

And if pepperoni pizza isn't enough to convert someone to veganism, I should point out the Vegan MoFo is in full swing for the entire month of October, and if these vegan bloggers can't convert you, then I don't know what will. I participated in Vegan MoFo last year, and it was a great, albeit exhausting experience. It's great exposure for your own blog, and you get to connect with and discover lots of other vegan bloggers while you're at it. It was a difficult decision to not sign up again this year, but I just didn't think I could keep up the pace of daily posting for a solid month. Between my job, which has been insane lately, being 8 months pregnant and tired all the time, and preparing our apartment for the baby, I can barely manage to throw together a pepperoni pizza made out of store-bought ingredients, you know? But I will be reading the daily updates and hope to discover some great new vegan blogs. You should do it too. Support your fellow vegans!

Indian-Spiced Skillet-Roasted Okra.

I fear that I'm posting this okra recipe too late in the season. I didn't make it to the farmer's market this past weekend, so I don't know if the okra was still there, but regardless, okra is more of a warm weather vegetable and if you can still find it fresh, its days are certainly numbered.

That said, having grown up eating Southern food, okra is one of my favorite ingredients. I usually prepare it by coating the slices in a spicy cornmeal batter, then frying it in the pan, but I think we can all agree that while delicious, that probably isn't the healthiest way to eat okra. Or anything for that matter. Which is why I was really excited to find this recipe for this Skillet-Roasted Spiced Okra that would involve a lot less oil and would just really let the natural flavor and texture of the okra shine through. The recipe is already vegan, so just follow the instructions at the link.

The Indian spices (hot paprika, cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, turmeric, cinnamon, fenugreek) seem to have a natural afinity for the okra. It sounds like a lot of ingredients but the recipe couldn't have been easier to make - you simply roast the okra spears in the pan with just a little oil, then sprinkle the spice mixture on top and drizzle a little lemon juice over everything to serve. Super fast and easy. And for those of you who don't like, or are scared of, okra because of the "slime" factor - I assure you, this method of preparing the okra completely eliminates the slime! The spears turn golden brown and crispy within minutes. I served these over basmati rice with some Aloo Mattar (potato & pea curry). Quick and delicious!