Showing posts with label Let Them Eat Vegan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Let Them Eat Vegan. Show all posts

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Healthy Thanksgiving in Review, Warts and All

Thanksgiving was stressful for me.  I think that goes for a lot of people, but it particularly goes for vegans who live almost 300 miles from their family and who have a family who are guaranteed to not make or have a single thing that is vegan, including the rolls, which contained both milk and eggs.  Ridiculous.

I was really organized, though.  I made my pumpkin pie ahead of time, ready to eat upon arrival.  I made the crust of the raw apple pie ahead of time and did the rest when I arrived at my dad's house on Wednesday night.  My spinach-chickpea tart was all prepared, ready to pop in the oven and the gravy was already made, placed in a plastic Tupperware container.  I had the potatoes all cut up with half of them peeled in a plastic bag, ready for boiling, and my cauliflower cut up and coated with oil for roasting, with the additions measured in a baggie to put on it already.  The butternut squash cheese for my mac and cheeze was made and the kale all cut up -- all I had to do was boil the pasta, saute the kale, and put all three together.

My recipes this year came from the internet, at least mostly.  I had some in books, but I ended up referring to the versions I found on the internet.  The pumpkin pie, which was the easiest thing I made, came from the blog Fat Free Vegan, and it's Susan Voisin's Impossible Pumpkin Pie (the recipe is here).
As she explains on her blog, this is based off the "impossible" recipes using Bisquick that formed a crust on the outside when cooked despite not making an actual separate crust.  She figured out how to make it both vegan and gluten free and I thought it sounded like just the thing for a healthier Thanksgiving dessert.  I give it both of my thumbs up!  My family would barely try my food (wtf, man), but one uncle who tried it said he thought it had too much ginger, but I disagree.  It tasted pitch perfect to me, and it was really easy to throw together. 

Then I also made this raw apple pie that is based off the recipe from Raw Food: A Complete Guide to Every Meal of the Day, but when I looked for a version online for easier reference away from home, I found a version (it's here) on a site called Kayley Hoddick Photography that was more tailored to people like me who would be using dried dates instead of fresh ones, because I have never seen a fresh date in the store, have you?  I ended up using that recipe, although I changed a few things: I added some vanilla and cinnamon extract to the crust and I used less cinnamon in the between-layer mush.  It looks like a lovely flower when you put it together.

In my opinion, it was perfect.  I mean, OK, it's not apple pie like you're used to, but it's delicious, and healthy enough to eat for breakfast for a few days.  Oh, by the way, I also added some fresh lemon juice to both the middle layer with pureed apple and banana and to the raw apple laid on top, and I must say, it kept extremely well. I was shocked about that.  The following picture was taken three days after I made it.

Do you guys want to see a picture of me wearing the crazy Wonder Woman apron that my friend Sara gave to me and holding both my pies?  Of course you do.

But I didn't just eat dessert, oh no!  I also made Dreena Burton's Festive Chickpea Tart from Let Them Eat Vegan as my main dish, but I kinda screwed it up.  I just took some frozen spinach from my freezer and didn't look at the size, but mine was 16 oz, and she actually only calls for 10 oz.  The additional spinach really does make a negative difference, but it's still pretty good with lots of gravy.  Sadly, though, (really, I literally cried), on Wednesday night, I went out to hang with some of my old friends in Phoenixville and someone at my house spilled my gravy container out of the fridge.  Nice, leave the lone vegan without the gravy she'd worked to hard to make a double recipe of.  Boo hiss.  Still, mixed into everything, this was fine.  It was not the best, but it was pretty good.  You can find the NOT messed up version of the recipe right here.
You know, it's hard to say what you'd do differently next time for a recipe you already made a major mistake on, but I did also think it was a bit too walnutty.  I think I'd just use fewer walnuts next time, and also the right amount of spinach, and also have plenty of gravy.

I really wanted to make some mac and cheeze, but next year, I think I'll stick to a simple one that gets baked in the oven.  This year, though, overcome with Thanksgiving cheer, I made the Smokey Butternut Mac and Cheese from Manifest Vegan (recipe here) because the squash is nice and seasonal and I had the opportunity to veg up my mac, which is of course awesome.  The cheeze tasted absolutely amazing when I made it, but I could also tell that I'd really made it too lemony.  See, I always wash my lemons well before zesting them, and normally I'd make damn sure it was dry before zesting, but the days leading up to Thanksgiving were busy for me, and I prematurely zested my lemon and ended up with a very generous teaspoon of zest.  It was a big mistake, but the fresh squash in the cheeze tasted so good, I figured it wouldn't be a big deal.
That lemon did end up being a big deal, though.  Over time, the squash taste became less intense and the lemon taste intensified.  It really wasn't great, which is a true shame.  Live and learn, though, live and learn.  Next time, it'll be perfect, and I'll never zest another wet lemon again.

I did finally win the people of my family over with one of my dishes: the mashed potatoes.  They agreed that, next year, they'd at least leave the mashed-making to me, because mine was better than theirs with cream and butter, and it was far lower-calorie because I made cauliflower mashed potatoes.  What I did was roast a head of cauliflower with almonds and nutritional yeast, as directed by Dreena Burton once again, on this here recipe.  Then, I boiled my potatoes and put the two together and used an immersion blender to mix the two things, along with a good bit of Trader Joe's unsweetened coconut milk beverage and a little bit of olive oil and a little bit of Earth Balance.  It was utter deliciousness, and although it's too boring to take a picture of mashed potatoes by themselves, they do appear on my overall dinner plate.  You also get to see a bit of the gravy that managed to get saved from the Thanksgiving eve fridge disaster.

You can see here that there were three other things that were vegan that I did not make.  My aunt brought some terrific string beans that really made everything better, my uncle bought some sort of carrot thing from an Indian store that was tasty, but out of place on the Thanksgiving table because it had a curry taste, and my step-mother's cranberry sauce, at least, contained no animal products.

The truth is, this was my first vegan Thanksgiving.  It used to be that, although I cooked vegan at home, I had very little care about what was fed to me by others.  That's because it was environmental sustainability that made me cook and eat vegan for myself, so it didn't seem to matter if I ate what was already prepared elsewhere.  Once it became also about health, it mattered to me to never consume animal products.  And after that happened, I could finally open my eyes to the humanitarian reasons to be vegan.  It's weird.  I love animals more now.  I really got down with my dad's dog Brisket during this trip home.  I mean, I always liked Brisket, but this time, we chilled.  He did the thing where he walks between my legs, which is only something he does with people he wants to show affection for, and it made me feel so nice.  Now I want a dog.  You can see me in all my only-at-home, makeup-free glory with my little sister and Brisket here:

He's such a sweet puppy!  Now I'm back in Pittsburgh with my cat, though.  She missed me so much.  She's actually sitting on top of my extended legs right now because the laptop is on my actual lap.  Sweetest. Cat. Ever.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

End of the Mofo and Unemployment Cooking (VEGAN MOFO: DAY 31)

It's the last day of the Vegan Month of Food, more commonly known as Vegan Mofo, and although it's nice to not have the pressure on to post every day no matter what, I must say it was really a pleasure posting daily.  As a result of this blogging month, I think I will never go over a week without blogging again, and actually I suspect I'll now post multiple times a week.

If you've been reading because of Vegan Mofo and you like what you've read, but haven't subscribed in any way, I encourage you to do any or all of the following things:
-subscribe via email
-add me to whatever blog feeder you use
-follow me on Twitter @FoodAndLoathing
-like me on Facebook at Food and Loathing in the Steel City.
-add me to your own blog's blogroll.  I'm happy to return the favor, just email me at

I only just created my Facebook page and found the Twitter password in the middle of the night last night, so that hopefully explains my woeful lack of followers.  I'm trying to get Instagram to work on my Android phone, but all it does so far is crash.  Instagram, you haven't seen the end of!  You may have won this round, 'gram, but I'm determined.

Being newly unemployed for only the second day ever yesterday, I did very little job hunting, instead choosing to sleep in until an obscenely late hour and listen to that depressing Bon Iver album.  I swear I'll be right back on the "go git 'em" path tomorrow, one full day seems reasonable enough, right?  And it's not like I did nothing.  Eventually, I prepared a whole bunch of amazing food for myself, because that's my favorite thing to do in the whole world.

Would you just check out that thing of beauty?  It's the Warmly Spiced Quinoa Chickpea Stew with Figs from Dreena Burton's book Let Them Eat Vegan, which I have out from the library but I really want to own.  It is chock-full of healthy recipes that are light on oil and heavy on flavor.  This recipe called for 10 different spices if you include salt, pepper, and the bay leaf!  But it actually was easy. (This recipe is online here.)

When I first started preparing it, I went to cut up the onion that I had bought only the day before from Giant Eagle Market District and want to see the bad omen inside?  It's gross, you actually might not want to see it.  Too late, I know you already looked!
If that ain't just about the rottenest onion you ever did see, I pity you.  Not even those onion-eating hungry kids in the book and movie Holes would eat this (I apologize to everyone who does not get that reference).  I decided to walk to my most local grocery store, the infamously low-brow Shur-Save.  As is my practice whenever I have to make a run to the grocery store mid-recipe, I took a look to see if I forgot to buy anything in the recipe.  Alas, I had!  I forgot the fresh fennel, which folks 'round these parts usually call "anise."  There was no way that Shur Save was going to have fresh fennel, so I thought on it during the whole three minute walk and decided that celery would be the most doable replacement.  So I used celery in this recipe and it is very delicious!  I recommend replacing fresh fennel or anise with celery if you ever need to for whatever reason in the future.

I also made this ranch dressing from terrific blog Fat Free Vegan Kitchen.  It's not actually fat free--it has both raw cashews and chia seeds.  But it is oil free, and that's cool.  I left some things out of the recipe, like the chives, and although I do think it would have been better with them, I still think this dressing is a very tasty version of ranch, and I'm likely to make it again in the future.
I also finally made my own "bacon" bits, using the really easy, fat-free recipe in The Happy Herbivore (the recipe can be found here).  They look just like commercially-prepared Bacos, don't they?
You may be aware that Bacos and all their generic imitations are, in fact, vegan, but they also contain hydrogenated oil (otherwise known as the dreaded trans fat).  That's why it's better to make your own if you like that little crunch in your salad like I do.

And onto dessert.  We newly-unemployed people gotta have our dessert, even if they're the relatively healthy kind.  I made Rip Esselstyn's fat free chocolate pudding from the book The Engine 2 Diet, mostly because it uses boxed silken tofu and I found the last time I made it that it worked fine using the "firm" kind and I have tons and tons of firm, boxed tofu that will go bad in, like, March of next year, and I know from experience that those things get a really gross taste when they go bad.  You can find the original recipe here, but I like to use more chocolate and a bit less syrup.  I may even try it out with stevia next time in place of much of the maple syrup.  It's also fun to add other things into it, like orange juice/zest, espresso powder, cinnamon, or extracts you've got on hand like mint or raspberry or whatever floats your particular boat.

Then I made my first-ever recipe from a book I'm excited to have gotten my hands on called The Blooming Platter by Betsy DiJulio, who also maintains a blog that always makes me both drool and feel really jealous of her picture-taking skills.  Definitely check it out, especially if you like Dreena Burton (author of the above-mentioned Let Them Eat Vegan).  They both make detailed, delicious recipes that are healthier but not completely fat free or sugar free.  Anyway, the recipe I made was the Maple Glazed Nuts, just because I had all the ingredients on hand and also because, yum, maple-glazed nuts.
I used a mix of whole pecans and chopped walnuts for this.
And yet, I still was not content with these two dessert items.  But then I remembered that I still have the Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream (recipe here) I'd made from Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Foods in my freezer. Also, I made it with the homemade Miyoko Schinner cashew cream cheese (recipe here), not with any soy crap.

So, let me get this straight: I've got strawberry cheesecake ice cream, chocolate pudding, and maple-glazed nuts for dessert.  I think that I finally have something that is worthy of being labeled as an "unemployment indulgence."

Goodbye Vegan Mofo 2012!  It was really a blast participating and reading the blogs of others who participated.  Many of you just knocked my socks off with your recipe ideas, photos, and funny writing.  I am now following many of your blogs.  Thank you to everyone who commented, emailed me, or added me to her or his various feeds.  Your comments and feedback mean a lot to me.

Oh, and, happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Third Time's the Charm (VEGAN MOFO: DAY 17)

Two Thursdays ago, my office ordered lunch takeout from a Downtown Pittsburgh restaurant called Six Penn Kitchen, where they had a BBQ Tofu Salad listed on their online menu, although I later learned it actually wasn't on the menu anymore.  I ordered it, and they made it for me despite their outdated online menu. 
It was tofu, probably baked with a BBQ sauce, some fried onions, a bed of raw spinach, and some mushrooms.  At first bite, I thought it was kind of boring.  But it grew on me with each successive bite.  The spinach really had nothing on it, but when you cut up the tofu and onions, the bit of oil and spices on them got on everything, and it really wasn't half bad.  Actually, it inspired me.  I figured, hey, I could make this, it's really simple and low-calorie.

Recently, I made this BBQ popcorn from Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food, and I thought that the spice and sugar mix for that popcorn would probably make a suitable dry rub for the tofu.  I pressed the tofu and covered them with the rub, then put them into my cast iron skillet and into the broiler for about 10 minutes, flipped them, then 10 minutes more.  There was no oil on them, but then I also fried up some onions, where I used some spray oil--not too much.
Once again, a bit plain, but I would like it better every bite I took.  Not quite as good as Six Penn's version, but I wasn't dissatisfied with it.

Then I got Let Them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton from the library, and I saw her simple recipe for Sunflower BBQ Tofu, and thought I'd make another carton of tofu with that recipe.  I'm not really sure what sunflower butter is, so I used one of her alternatives listed, tahini.  The recipe also had oil, which I cut in half.  Then I made the Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes, or "Caulipots" from Appetite for Reduction to add to this mix and make it a little more exciting.  Never one to feel limited to using just ONE listed recipe variation, I added both garlic with spices AND some nutritional yeast. 
Oh yeah, NOW we're talking!  This is a meal!  Caulipots, a bed of spinach, a couple raw mushrooms, some BBQ tofu, and fried onion.  It looks all organized in the above picture, but ultimately, I cut it all up and mashed it all together and mmmmmmmm.  Really great, and still very healthy!  I could eat this a few times a week and be happy.  But mostly, I'm just proud that I took an idea from a restaurant and made it way, way better.  Way to rule, me.  ::pats self on back::

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