Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Birthday Party, Cheesecake, Jellybean, BOOM!

There are still a couple days left to enter to win a copy of The Global Vegan Waffle Cookbook!  C'mon, you can't tell me you don't want to make Caramelized Onion and Garlic Waffles.  Of course you do!  Find out how to enter here.

This past Saturday was my 30th birthday.  I hate having a December birthday, people are always too busy to properly dote on me and buy me drinks.  There are way too many competing events.  Sometimes I think about just pretending I have a different birthday, living a lie.  But I'm seriously the worst liar; I hate having to remember different versions of reality.  Just one reality is difficult enough to remember. 

This time, though, my birthday was on a Saturday, plus I'm moving out of town really soon.  When I left Phoenixville, my friend Morgan threw me a huge party and there were so many people there and it was incredibly fun and flattering.  Pittsburgh is kind of an insular city, though, and although I certainly did make friends here, I didn't make enough to have a giant shindig in the busy month of December to celebrate/mourn my making like a tree and getting out of here.  Still, it seemed appropriate to have a small group of friends come over and eat food I cooked.  I had about 15 friends over.

Maybe you're not supposed to cook for your own birthday, I don't know.  I think you're supposed to let someone else bring you a cake at least.  But screw that!  I love to cook and, furthermore, I have a ton of food at my apartment that I'm trying to use up.  In my freezer, I had pesto I made this summer, two loaves of bread, and more diced tomatoes from my garden than I knew what to do with.  Plus, I have lots of Mori-Nu tofu and Earth Balance.  Can you see where this is going?  To me, this all points in one clear direction: grilled cheese with pesto along with tomato soup!

The grilled cheese comes more or less from Julie Hasson's book Vegan Diner.  I probably used her pesto recipe.  It's my favorite because it has spinach along with basil, and baby spinach is something I just keep around for salads and scrambled tofu and whatever else, so it's convenient.  The cheese is her Great Smoky Mountain Cheeze (the recipe is here), which is just perfect for grilled cheese.  It tastes so freaking good, and it's made from Mori-Nu tofu, and you can slice it and then spread it onto the bread.  The last time I made this, I thought it was so great, I went just a little bit crazy!  My friends loved it.  I had to send Bill out to buy some more bread.  Bill also took this next picture.  Isn't Bill helpful?
And the tomato soup, let's talk about that, shall we?  I've made every tomato soup recipe pretty much, but the one I go back to always is in Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman's book 500 Vegan Recipes.  Even though I made fat free sour cream out of tofu instead of using their sour cream recipe that contained cashews (my friend Mary is allergic to most nuts, and I wanted her to be able to eat it), the Creamy Tomato Soup was still top friggin' notch (the recipe is here). 

For dessert, sorry, no birthday cake.  Instead, pie time!
I actually took that picture of myself the day after my birthday while unshowered and hungover to post to Facebook after I got so sick of fighting with people who honestly believe that their love of guns is a worthy tradeoff for the destruction of life guns cause.  I say, find something more awesome to love than guns, people.  Like pie, for instance!  Other good candidates include: vitamins, the Wu-Tang Clan, sandy beaches, Netflix, and funny hats.  Seriously, get over your love of guns, it makes you look like an a**hole.  OK, rant done.  Onto pie!

Another thing I have a lot of in my kitchen is raw cashews.  I bought, like, 10 pounds of them soon after the release of Miyoko Schinner's Artisan Vegan Cheese.  I've gone through a lot, but 10 is really a lot of pounds of cashews!  So I thought I'd make her cream cheese (recipe is here), which is so easy to make and much better than Tofutti, in my opinion.  Also, ever since I went to her book release party and she served her recipes, I knew I had to make some of her complete recipes and not JUST the cheeses from the book, because that woman has mad skillz.  She has a number of cheesecake recipes in the book, but I chose to try the Fluffy No-Bake Cheesecake (sorry, couldn't find a recipe to link) because it has a raw crust, which I love, and it uses whipped coconut cream and you know what else I have a lot of?  Cans of coconut milk.  I've also had this random can of cherry topping on my shelf, like, forever.
It's torture to look at that and not eat it, don't you think?  I don't have to suffer as much as you do because I still have some in my fridge.  I'm so sorry about that.

Remember I said that my friend Mary is allergic to cashews and other nuts?  She couldn't eat that cashew cheese-based cheesecake with the raw almond-based crust, obviously.  But I wouldn't let a friend go without dessert!  So I also made a Key Lime Pie, this one from the newest of the Moskowitz/Romero dessert bibles, Vegan Pie In the Sky (recipe here).
This was just perfect.  It was only my third pie from this book, and it was my third big giant success.  I still felt bad that Mary didn't get to have the cheesecake, but it's cool, this was by no means suffering.

So, that was my birthday feast!  Every single thing involved my food processor: the sandwich cheese, the pesto, the sour cream for the soup, both pie crusts, and both pie fillings.  There was a lot of rinsing going on the day before my birthday.  And, oh yeah, I've only gotten MORE obsessed with hummus, so I made some that was 1/3 black beans and 2/3 chickpeas the day before, which also involved the food processor.  It got a little dry overnight, but trust me when I say it was so good that after I ran out of carrots the next day, I ate the hummus with a spoon at first, and then with my fingers.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Trick Your Omni Friends (and Your Vegan Ones, You Meanie) with Beyond Meat

I got a tip-off that Beyond Meat's chicken-style strips are now available at the Whole Foods in Pittsburgh, as well as at Whole Foods stores across the country.

Have you heard about Beyond Meat?  I first read about it in the article Fake Meat So Good It Will Freak You Out on and I remember thinking that, although I was not really in the market for vegetarian meat (I've never tried Gardein or Tofurky, for instance), I was intrigued. A lot of people, especially vegetarians or other folks trying to reduce their consumption of animals, rely on vegetarian meat.  And it's often useful when cooking for people who insist upon eating meat all the time. 

You find it in Whole Foods' prepared food section, and it's sold by weight.

I'm going to post a second picture so you can see what it actually looks like, since I failed to take a picture of it after I'd bought some.  It's down in the bottom center.
Weird, it looks like grilled chicken, right?  I feel like meat eaters probably buy this by accident sometimes.  I'm not one of these people who gets grossed out at the idea of eating something that resembles meat, but I've been cooking vegan long enough that I don't actually have a lot of recipes that require a meat imitation.  That said, I think Beyond Meat is a really great alternative for people who don't make their own seitan, choosing instead to buy it from the store, or for someone who avoids gluten.

It tastes really plain, not unlike, well, unseasoned chicken.  This is made for you to put into other dishes, not eat alone.  It feels and looks like chicken, and I do believe that, put into a recipe, you can completely fool a meat eater (or freak out a vegan).  I'll admit, though, I didn't buy much of it.  I just wanted to try it.  Before I move, I'm trying to use up what I have on hand, buying only fresh veggies.  I have way too much stuff to use up, you have no idea.  And also, the prepared food section at Whole Foods is kind of expensive.  Certainly not more expensive than buying pre-made seitan, but more expensive (by weight) than, say, a container of tofu.

I decided to throw together a curry.  I had a couple potatoes leftover still from Thanksgiving (umm, this was over two weeks ago).  Then I also have a few cans of Maesri Curry Paste, which is really the key to making restaurant-quality curries. 

Plus, I have still just lots and lots of frozen diced tomatoes from my garden this summer and cans upon cans of organic coconut milk.  It's really easy to make restaurant quality curry!  I peeled and cubed my potatoes, then boiled them until they were soft.  Then, I sauted some onion, garlic, and ginger with a little water (I chose to not put any MORE fat into this by using oil) in my large saucepan, added the potatoes, an entire can of red curry paste, a can of coconut milk, 1.5 cups (1 can) cooked chickpeas, and 1.5 cups diced tomatoes from my freezer.  I also put lots of frozen peas in and some kale because I had some and although it's not what is normally in a curry, who cares?  There really wasn't enough liquid, so I added a bunch of coconut milk beverage (Trader Joe's brand), although any non-dairy milk will work.

Then, you guessed it, I added the Beyond Meat diced really small.  It would have been better with more of it in larger pieces, but I didn't have a lot, so I cut it tiny.    I added just a bit of salt and, viola!
This would have been great with or without the Beyond Meat, but I must admit, it was pretty excellent when I'd get a little piece of it in the curry.  It would be better with more--I'm aware it's not even visible in the picture.  At the same time, I think this would also be great with, well, you know, tofu.  Tofu is a friend of curries.  But you're sure not going to trick any meat eaters with tofu like you can with the Beyond Meat!  It's definitely something to try in place of seitan or in place of chicken.  I'd actually love to dice it tiny and make chicken salad with it.  Not that I ate chicken salad before I was a vegan (I've always been skeeved by mayonnaise), but somehow it sounds good to me to make a vegan version.

Hey, don't forget to go over to this entry here and leave a comment if you want to enter to win a copy of The Global Vegan Waffle Cookbook, which is totally worth owning just for the savory sauce recipes alone!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cookbook Giveaway (and Big News)

I've been putting off blogging for longer than usual even though I have a lot of food stuff I'm excited to share, but it just is hard for me to make it official--both to the people I know personally and the bunches of people I don't know who read this blog--that I'm moving away from Pittsburgh in January.  I'm going to the San Francisco Bay area.  For a lot of reasons, but mostly because I like it there and it's something I can do.  Not to be all YOLO or anything, but you really do only live once, right?

What's really weird is that I'm going to have to change the name of this blog.  Again.  This will have been the second time I've changed the blog's name due to relocation.  First, it was Food and Loathing in Phoenixville, now it's Food and Loathing in the Steel City, and it's starting to be clear to me that it might be unwise to keep attaching the blog's name to the place I live.

Here's the thing: I've got the domain name, and I like it, although it does kind of sound like it might be about having an eating disorder, not about joyfully preparing healthy vegan food and vegan comfort foods.  Maybe I should abandon loathing in general.  I don't feel like I really spend much time loathing, but I do feel that I've got a natural darkness about me, and having "loathing" in the title, along with the literary "I'm smart, you're smart too!" pretentiousness of playing off the Hunter S. Thompson book title (though I'm not, in fact, a particular fan of that book) was kinda good and clever.

I thought, maybe, Food and Loathing in Las Vegan, but I also kind of feel like that's soooo corny.  Maybe it's not, though?  I really would like people's opinion about this, and I'm going to actually tie it into a cookbook givaway, so let's get to that!

Remember in the entry I wrote about going to Zenith in Pittsburgh, I mentioned that my friends and I were joined by a random vegan named Dave?  Well, that guy is Dave Wheitner, and he has a cookbook called The Global Vegan Waffle Cookbook, and he's been throwing vegan waffle parties for years.  When he first mentioned about it, it didn't sound that interesting to me because waffles are kind of a hassle, and they're a fancy breakfast food, and they're gluten-filled and heavy.  But then I found out that many of the recipes are for savory waffles with savory sauces, there are a lot of gluten-free recipes in it, it's OK to make pancakes with a waffle recipe, and, hey, the Amazon reviewers really like it!

Also, Dave is a really intelligent, cool guy.  I strongly encourage you to read something he wrote called Imperfect & Aspiring Vegan, Total Vegetarian, or Conscious Consumer.  It is some of the most thoughtful, reasonable, and non-judgmental writing that I've ever read on the topic of the trade-offs compassionate people who aim for sustainability in their practices must make in order to live in a way that that is consistent with our values.  I strongly encourage everyone to take a little time out to read it.

Anyway, he gave me a copy of The Global Vegan Waffle Cookbook and it is way better than I expected.  On the sweet side, recipes like Generously Ginger-Lemon-Chocolate Waffles and Chai Spice Waffles are damn appealing to me.  On the savory side, well, get a load of this: Some Awesome Samosa Waffles? Kale-idoscopic WafflesSpanakowafflita??  Not only are those names clever as hell, but also, DAMN.  I want to eat those things, don't you?  And then there are sauce/syrup/toppings recipes and ice cream recipes!  Like Espresso-Maple-Walnut Syrup and Cilantro-Lime Tahini Sauce and Southwestern Beans & Greens.  Of course, there is a suggested topping for each waffle.

So, I threw a miniature waffle dinner party of my own!  I do have a waffle maker, after all.  I made Umami Mama Waffles along with the Savory Cashew-Mushroom Sauce to top them with.  These waffles have, among other things, Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, miso, garlic, and savory spices like oregano and cayenne.  The sauce was great on it, but I do want to say that the recipe is easily doubled and you should at least double it to top the amount of waffles one recipe makes.

And, oh yeah, this is a waffle PARTY, right?  I invited my friends Andrew and Steph over to chow down in an uncivilized manner, as we're not the types to sit at kitchen tables.  Sometimes I wonder why I even HAVE a kitchen table.

Dave gave me an extra copy of the book to give out to one of you!  I'll give you a couple ways you can enter to win:
1.  Like Food and Loathing in the Steel City on facebook.  You'll get an EXTRA entry if you write something on my wall.
2.  Follow me on Twitter @FoodAndLoathing and just retweet the tweet I'm about to write about entering the giveaway.  That is, retweet any tweet I have up that links to this entry.
3.  Add me on Google Friend Connect (it's on the right of the screen.  Umm, yeah, scroll down.  Keep scrolling).
4.  Leave a comment here about anything!  BUT, if you leave a comment with a suggestion or something else related to what you think I should call this blog after I've relocated, you get an EXTRA entry!

You will get an entry for each of the things you do!  So do a bunch?  Cool.  There are lots of ways to put your name in the proverbial hat (OK, it will actually be one of those random internet number generating things).

I will pick a winner on Sunday the 23rd of December, 2012.  Why then?  I don't know.  So I don't have to worry about it during my birthday weekend, I guess?  And so you'll know in time for Christmas, and even if you don't celebrate Christmas you will have something to celebrate?  So I can send it on Christmas eve and you will get it by New Years morning and you can celebrate the new year with waffles?  Anyway, I appreciate you entering.  It's a really good cookbook, I think whoever gets it will like it, unless the person who gets it only likes things that suck for some reason.
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