Thursday, May 28, 2009

Not Your Average 'Fu

This could just as easily be called Vegan Brunch: Preview Review or How I Became a Foodie. I want to take a little time to introduce my self: my name is Monique. It's pronounced with an umpty. No, wait. That doesn't quite work.

So my mother just finally started reading my blog. I know! No love. Anyway, we were talking the other day about how I absolutely loathed cooking as a child. My sister would always be right up under my mom and dad in the kitchen. Cooking bored me and I didn't understand it. In fact, I didn't start cooking until I began the process of going vegetarian. That involved mostly salads, processed foods, and the occasional veggie paella. Even when I went vegan, I stuck to the simpler cookbooks. Books that only required me to open some cans and add some prepackaged soy product. The first time I thought vegan cooking could be incredibly inspired was when I got Vegan with a Vengeance.

I picked it up at the bookstore because everybody was talking about it. I wanted to know what the fuss was about. After my squee settled down to a quiet calm, I panicked. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to pull any of it off. The recipes were simple enough, but would I be able to turn the omnis in my life into believers? I mean, as much as I don't care what omnis think about veganism...I want them to like my food. I want to place it on a table, hear their reaction, then see their eyes widen in disbelief that something so good could taste better than the best udder pus injected food. Yum!

And it worked. I did the menu for my wedding's rehearsal brunch three years ago. We cooked most of the food at home and brought it to my friend's house (who conveniently lived down the street from the venue). I don't remember most of the menu, but I do remember my friend turning to me and saying that the VWAV pancakes were "Hot fire!"

That, my friends, is when I became a foodie. This is the reason I will continue to purchase anything with Isa and/or Terry's name on it. The recipes they create have the ability to turn omnis into believers.
Last night I made it about halfway through Vegan Brunch. I basically read everything except the actual directions for the recipes. There's definitely some funny in there and tons of really good tips. I did manage to make one recipe, though. The Beer Battered Tofu (pictured above) is super simple and very tasty. It is fantastically crunchy. I plan to batter many, many things in my future. My batter isn't incredibly dark because I had a medium colored beer. I hit the poor, battered tofu with a splash of lime and topped everything with a simplified version of the corn salsa I talked about two posts down.

Simplified Corn and Pepper Salsa
1 cup fresh frozen corn, thawed
1 roma tomato, diced
1 smedium* orange bell pepper, diced (any color will do, but orange makes it purty)
1 green onion, thinly sliced
small fist full of cilantro, minced (1/4 to 1/3 cup depending on your fists)
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
salt to taste

Place everything into a bowl or container and stir/shake to your hearts content. This is super good when ice cold. Also, I forgot the jalapeno and garlic this time...and it was still good.

My husband and I should go shopping sometime this weekend so a big review is coming. And maybe even a photo blog.

*smedium is a term coined by a friend of mine for when something says medium but is kinda small. go for a smallish medium pepper...or not.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Not in Kansas Anymore

Ever feel like you've stepped out of a black and white world and into a technicolor dreamscape?

Thanks to Isa, the UPS man just delivered a copy of Vegan Brunch!!! I'm going to pay my fortune forward and give away a copy soon, yo.

My first impression: this book is absolutely gorgeous! Beautiful layout. It's got pictures throughout the entire book which makes me giddy! I've read through the first part and it's super informative with that Moskowitz charm. I've already started my shopping list because I plan to have a marathon cooking session this week.

Do yourself a favor and buy this book. This will change the way vegans view brunch. It's no longer the time to eat hash browns and dry toast. Now we can grab a mimosa and cozy up to some vegan denver omelets.

Epic brunch post to come!!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorializing Memorial Day Weekend

Yesterday, I felt completely wretched all day so I want to offer my deepest apology to Sunny Anderson for my previous post. In all the times I've poked at tv personalities, I never imagined any of them would read it...and I was completely mortified. I just want to take this time to make it clear to anybody reading this blog that the tone is incredibly light hearted. I don't take myself too seriously and I damn sure don't hate anybody (except for one ex boyfriend, but that's a different story). Now, I feel a lot better saying that.

I hope everybody had an absolutely fantastic weekend! I know I did. Even though we didn't have a grill, it felt like a barbeque weekend. After we finished the leftovers from our Jamaican meal, we had some coconut rice to use up. So, I made an eggplant recipe that I saw on Grill It! last week. It's pretty amazing. I used one large American eggplant instead of the Japanese ones. I also salted my eggplant to take the bitterness out. This is not the best picture, but the flavor was on point and super simple. Note: if you don't want to make a garlic paste, I suggest grating the garlic on a microplane...which is what I did.
Grilled Eggplant with Garlic Sauce and Mint
BY BOBBY FLAY (recipe originally found here)

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
4 Asian eggplants, halved lengthwise
Vegetable oil
Chopped fresh mint or cilantro leaves

Make a paste by smashing the garlic with a little salt and add to a small bowl. Whisk in the vinegar, soy, sesame oil, and red chili flakes.

Heat grill to high. Brush eggplant with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until slightly charred and just cooked through. Slice each half into 1/2-inch slices and place on a platter. Drizzle with the vinegar mixture and sprinkle with mint or cilantro.

Yesterday I made a sorta combination of the jackfruit carnitas and Vcon's baja tempeh tacos. I used jackfruit but flavored it with beer, olive oil, ancho chili powder, onions, garlic, cumin, and salt. I cooked it in the oven on 375 for about an hour and a half, adding more beer as the liquid was absorbed. I also made some more of Eddie G's tortillas, Isa's spicy pinto sausages, and Ani Phyo's red pepper corn salsa (substituted orange pepper and salted to taste). Served everything up with plenty of fresh avocado and beer. It was delicious. I'm back to the rawness. Made a large batch of Ani Phyo's raw donut holes (added cocoa to half and cinnamon to the others). I'll be enjoying some of those babies with some cinnamon Dunkin Donuts coffee thanks to Kmouse's post where she mentioned cardamom coffee. I also have some leftover salsa so I see a big salad in my future.

Anyway, I promise original recipes super soon. I'm working on a mango ginger lemonade recipe and some strawberry colada paletas for a project that might be coming. I should know within two weeks. I am stoked!

Happy Tuesday everybody.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Jamaica Me Crazy

It's Memorial Day weekend so I've allowed myself to eat more cooked foods. I was watching the Food Network last week and saw this episode of Cooking for Real that involved Jamaican food. Well, I got a super craving for the Jerk Seitan and Coconut Rice in VWAV.
First of all, I should probably say that I generally hate Cooking for Real and Sunny Anderson. Every time I watch her show, she mispronounces something. That's a huge pet peeve of mine. If you say jalapeno without pronouncing the enye, then you are dead to me! Dead, I say! But I did like that she had a completely vegan mango and avocado salad.
Plus, I threw in some fried platanos for good measure. That's "plantains" for all you people who don't know your Spanish. It was a good move.
I also made some cucumber juice. It's an incredibly refreshing drink made from English cucumbers. Though, I have to say that I thought it was a bit sweet. Even when I added ice. I will definitely cut back on the sugar, but it was delicious!
Mean Green Cucumber Juice
BY SUNNY ANDERSON (recipe originally found here)

2 English cucumbers
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups water

Peel the cucumbers, saving the peels. Grate cucumber flesh on a box grater. In a medium saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil. When sugar dissolves, add the grated cucumber and simmer until cucumber is tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

In a blender, puree reserved cucumber peel and cucumber syrup until smooth. Line a strainer with cheese cloth over a bowl. Strain cucumber mixture. Gather cheesecloth in 1 hand to squeeze out all of the juice. Chill until cool, about 1 hour. Serve in glasses over ice.
I guess grilling season is officially here! I really wish we hadn't left ours in San Antonio. Although, I saw this nifty thing today on how to turn a flower pot into a grill. Color me intrigued...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Peach Melba Smoothie

I should probably warn you that I have never, in my life, had peach melba before. I haven't the slightest idea if this even remotely tastes like it. Let's just say I was inspired by the peach, raspberry and vanilla combo. I initially made this over the weekend and decided to make myself one today. I love it. And it's raw so that's pretty awesome.

Peach Melba Inspired Smoothie
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup medjool dates
2 tsp alcohol-free vanilla extract
1 cup frozen peaches
1/4 cup frozen raspberries (You may want to thaw them and push them through a strainer if you don't like seeds. However, I suggest you just woman up and eat the seeds.)

I don't have a Vitamix (not bitter or anything) so I added the water, dates and cashews first. I blend until smooth, which is about 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until you have a thick, delicious, peachyraspberryvanilla-ey smoothie. Don't share with anybody.

In other news, I am obsessed with starting a vegetable garden before the summer. I don't know whether to do a raised, potted, or regular garden. I really suck at gardening. I've killed fake plants before. True story. Things I am fiending for: basil, lemon thyme, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, jalapenos, and maybe corn. Corn seems like it may be waaaaay out of my league. I'll post any gardening results here.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to rawify (new word...spread it around) Vcon's pasta della California. I'm crossing my fingers...and toes!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Just Like Home

After the day I've had, I was craving nothing more than a taste of home. I had to work with my minimal ingredients, as it's time to pick up some more produce. The other day, AdamCrisis of the PPK posted some tacos with a cheezy sauce that looked so silky I just had to know what was going on.

So tacos were on my mind. Let me clarify: bean and cheeze tacos. This time, I had to have some tortillas. So I made the cheeze sauce in this blog entry. It was so friggin good! And just as smooth as pictured. But the best part was that it wasn't super noochy. I mean, it has nooch in it, but the flavor is smooth and velvety. It was fantastic! Seriously. Make that cheeze sauce today.

And I just want to tell everybody to make Eddie G's tortillas right now! I originally saw them over at Lone Star Plate. They are super easy and really, really good. So fluffy and delightful. If you don't already know, I hate hate hate working with dough. The feeling of dough between my fingers gives me a bit of anxiety. So this dough was easy to work with, not sticky but very malleable. This will be my go to recipe from now on.

**EDIT**I forgot to say that I used water instead of almond milk because I didn't have any. I also made six instead of eight because I totally didn't read that it was for eight.

Happy Friday to all!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Simple Kinda Life

I really love being raw, but I don't love having to prep a bunch of things. I'm in no way a lazy person, but I definitely don't like to do more work than I have to. Lately, I've been craving a simplistic raw existence. I've been eating a lot of salads and downing smoothies. My favorite salad combo is tomato, avocado, a little bit of onion, nooch, salt and pepper. It sounds kinda gross but my body has been craving some nutritional yeast lately. Weird.

It's also really convenient to make a few nut cheeses and stash them away. I enjoy them with fruit for breakfast, on raw crackers, or just straight up. I cannot stress enough how much I love the Raw Freedom Community cheeses. That herb one and the peppercorn crusted one are AMAZING!

The other day I was craving sweets (as per usual) and I needed to use some bananas so I made some raw banana splits. The splits included: raw brownie bites, strawberry sauce (dehydrated strawberries blended in water), pineapple sauce (dehydrated pineapple blended in water), pecans, and vanilla ice cream adapted from this recipe.
Raw Brownie Bites
1 cup walnuts
1 cup dates
1/3 cup cocoa powder (cacao and carob would also work)

Place walnuts in food processor and pulverize until you've got crumbs. Add dates and cocoa powder. Process until smooth. Mold into brownie bites (I used an 1/8 cup) and place in fridge to set.

Also, did I mention that it was a mini banana split? That just makes it so much better! I put the split in one of those sushi soy sauce dishes.
My Adaptation of Andy's Vanilla Ice Cream Base
1 cup cashews
1 1/2 cups + 2 Tbsp almond milk*
1/3 cup medjool dates
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil

Blend all ingredients until smooth. You can then strain through a nut milk bag, but I didn't and it turned out fine. Process based on your ice cream maker's instructions.

*To make raw almond milk, soak 1 cup of almonds overnight. Drain and rinse. Blend with 3 cups water. Strain and save the pulp for future raw creations. Or dehydrate and throw in the food processor for almond flour.

Well, I'm off to try my hand at some more zucchini pasta, yo. I tried to tell my friend that raw life > thug life, but she didn't believe me. Crazy...I know.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Second Time Around

I am loving raw much mo betta this time around. It's easier, and I can legitimately see myself making a lifestyle change. Like I said yesterday, it's been super hot over here. Thus, I've been craving light foods. Today I ate watermelon, a cabbage wrap filled with vegetables, caprese and strawberry melonade. That's right: strawberry melonade. It's strawberry-watermelon lemonade. It was highly refreshing, but something is missing. Off the top of my head, I think it would taste better with lime. I'll post the recipe once I tweak it.
I'm currently making enchiladas for the husband and trying this thing where I use soaked oat groats in place of brown rice for me. I saw the idea on livejournal the other day and quite like it. I've tried squash rice and I do not care for it at all. I also don't really like raw cauliflower so I have no desire to try that either. I'll post the results.
Until then, I'll leave you with a most delicious pic of the caprese I made. It's alternating roma tomato slices and the Raw Freedom Community's herb cheeze on a bed of basil chiffonade. I added a bit of minced onion, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt 'n' pepper to taste. It was so good that I may have done a happy dance!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bargain Shopping

Growing up, my family was never one to skimp on the groceries. It is not an understatement to say that my parents were/are known for overdoing it. All the kids loved coming over for our snack cabinet alone. I realized how crazy my parents were once I moved out on my own. There was no way in hell that I could afford having a snack cabinet. In fact, there were definitely times in my marriage that we had to go 2 weeks or more on only $20 for food. We ate a whole bunch of fideo.

So I became pretty good at making my dollar stretch. I'd call myself cheap, but I totally don't mind splurging on stuff either. However, I refuse to pay $1 for one frickin cucumber.

On Sunday we went grocery shopping because I was changing my diet to primarily raw. One thing I wholeheartedly believe in is shopping for the best deals. Sometimes that means going to three different stores. I'm still trying to find my rotation here. Coachella is a small, small town and I live in a neighborhood that caters to Mexican cuisine (just like back home in Texas). There are limited vegan options unless I take a 15-30 minute drive.

This is how I discovered Clark's Nutrition. This will definitely be my new vegan mecca. It's about 20 minutes away and has everything I could ever want. And they don't charge 5 flippin dollars for a dollop of Vegenaise! I'm calling out Ralph's and Henry's for their overpriced stuff. I hate getting financially bitch slapped every time I walk in those stores...and, now, I'll never have to do it again! I was seriously excited. The store is extremely, EXTREMELY vegan friendly. They also have specially marked shelves for raw foodists and gluten free peeps. But the best part was that they have just about everything I've wanted to purchase online. Plus they have an all vegan cafe and sell prepackaged raw vegan food and cheesecake! I'm from the land of corn cups and please excuse the previous foodgasm.

I stocked up on some stuff for the raw journey. And they had these really inexpensive raw snacks. A box of cacao beans for $2.19 and a nori snack (tastes like Japanese flavored jerky) for $1.99. Note to all: it is never a good idea to take a giant bite of a cacao bean if you've never had one before. You might just gag...and spit the chocolate flavored dirt in the sink. Blech!

My Top Five Rules for Thrifty Shopping
1.Always write a list and stick to it. It's really hard to spiral out of control when you have everything written down.
2. Eat before you shop. Don't shop to feed your hunger. I've walked out of the store with ridiculous impulse buys because I was starving and just needed some rice cakes...?
3. Buy in bulk. It really does add up. Sometimes I'll even check the prices of prepackaged stuff and compare it to the bulk bins. It's always cheaper. We spend a majority of our shopping time scooping stuff into bags.
4. Stick to produce. Most vegans know how much cheaper fresh fruits and vegetables are. Stuff like greens are always cheap. It's also better to buy seasonally and locally. It tastes so much better.
5. Don't be afraid to shop at more than one place. It is a rarity for one store to provide the best deals down the line. Generally, we shop at 3 places. Winco has the best bulk section and a reasonably priced high variety of produce. Fresh N Easy is right across the street from them and has KILLER sales. We go for their half off refrigerated section and their clearance rack. The other week they had all sorts of spaghetti at 15 cents for a pound. Finally, there's Food 4 Less which is good for stuff used in Mexican cuisine.

Overall, this new transition to raw has been great and fun. I've been doing a lot of freezing and dehydrating. Made some okra chips, which were just about the best thing ever! It's starting to get into the 100s over here so I will definitely be eating a lot of cucumber and watermelon. More to come soon...