25 February 2011

Seitan, three ways



While my kitchen was already crowded last night for my pasta yumminess, I got inspired to try my hand at seitan again. The Veganomicon version I made last year was great, but I felt obligated to give the La Dolce Vegan a try. It's a given that seitan is a digestive nightmare. No one digests it terrifically, but it tastes great, and is a high protein "meaty" alternative to soy. It's the same process as the last round: make the dough, boil it in a flavored broth, serve a variety of ways.

Anyhow, I made a double batch of the Faux Chicken and served it three different ways during the next few days. The first (and third) were for salads - the first time just served "as is" and sliced. Add dried cranberries and almonds, and there was nothing boring about it. But this version of seitan definitely was a little spongier than I prefer. (A few days later, I baked it before serving and it really improved the texture.)


The next, and best, way I prepared the Faux Chicken was as Jay-Lo's Fried "Chicken". Yum! The best faux meat I've ever made. I modified the La Dolce recipe to use the Multipurpose Coating for Dredging Foods from Vegan Soul Kitchen - and I definitely think the spicier cornmeal breading was the winner. (It's the same coating I used for tomatoes in the fall, plus a lot more chili powder and fresh ground pepper this round.)

I made a "spicy chicken sandwich" with Vegenaise (the best of Vegan mayonnaise, hands down) and Clancy's... it may not be the healthiest of Vegan sandwiches, but it was a great alternative to a frozen Boca patty! And with Ezekiel tortillas, it's one less processed carb. I'm going to make them into "nuggets" the next time I'm craving some Vegan fast food!


24 February 2011

Crowded House



Back in town, back in the kitchen. I've been craving some good Italian fare, so the "Meat" Balls & Spaghetti in Everything Vegan caught my eye. The "meat" was actually garbanzos and vital wheat gluten again - which turns out to make a super tasty addition to pasta.

Just like the bean burgers last week, using the vital wheat gluten binds everything together... and gives a "meaty" consistency for those traditionalists (or meat-eaters) out there. I used panko instead of regular bread crumbs, so that could make a huge difference next round. Instead of using spaghetti, I used brown rice penne. Then I added a lot of spinach and made the Quick All-Purpose Garlic Tomato Sauce from "La Dolce Vegan!"

I'm yet to be impressed with a cookbook recipe for tomato sauce that includes tomato paste. they are always too sweet, and I'm always happier whipping up something from scratch with more spice. The "meat" balls were the perfect texture and spice... a great contrast to the tomato sauce. Regardless, the combo together worked out well... and made great lunches for the next few days.


One major problem? My tiny tiny stove. Any meal with more than 2 pots and pans is too many on this little guy... so I need to remind myself to do one thing at a time, and/or plan ahead. Or get a grown up size oven so I can cook like crazy!

18 February 2011

Vaca



I'm on vacation for the next week, and there will be no cooking (and likely no healthy Vegan food)... but at least I started my trip off with a fresh shot of wheatgrass! I'm staying with my good friend Kelly, blocks from the gorgeous Siesta Key beach. She used to be my veggie cooking partner-in-crime on a regular basis... so maybe someday she'll be a part of this cooking adventure!

In the meantime, I really really really want to grow my own fresh wheatgrass and buy a Vitamix! It's not the same as cooking, but it's so fresh and delicious. (Note to self: move to the beach, drink wheatgrass every morning, cook cook cook.)

14 February 2011

Be Mine.



I'm still trying to use up ingredients I've stocked up on around the house... so the Cranberry-Orange-Nut Bread was the next in line. Just in time to make a Valentine's treat for my work loves. Who doesn't bake for Valentine's Day?


I always think sweet breads are kinda lame, so I made it into giant tasty muffins instead. It's citrus season, so I juiced a Minneola and used fresh/frozen cranberries. (You can freeze a bag of fresh cranberries while they are in season, and use them later on for recipes like this! Who knew?) What a difference both make over orange juice and dried cranberries.


It turns out Minneolas don't zest very well, but they are super sweet and delicious oranges... and the muffins turned out great anyhow. (Especially since I used 1/4c. sugar instead of the recipes 1c. - plus added flax meal and forgot the allspice.) It looks like I'll be modifying recipes to make them healthier as long as I'm cooking... but so far it works and no one is complaining as long as I continue to bring them treats!


13 February 2011

New Material


How can I flip through a brand new Vegan cookbook and NOT buy it? So the latest rush of Vegan recipe mania began... no thanks to Amazon and their insanely good deals on used cookbooks. (Clearly the people selling them don't know what they aremissing!) At least there could be worse vices or worse (and less delicious) ways to spend my money...

The first to add to "my cart" was "Everything Vegan" (by Vegetarian Times). The perfect well-thought-out cookbook, great pictures, easy instruction and ingredients. Next were "How it all Vegan!" and "La Dolce Vegan!" - both by Sarah Kramer (of GoVegan fame). These aren't as showy, or as clear and explicit... but they are filled with bunches of recipes to try out regardless. Now where to begin?!

I had to revisit "Veganomicon" one last time before trading it in (temporarily) for the new books... and what I had on hand lent itself to Black Bean Burgers. Unlike most crumbly bean burger recipes, this one used vital wheat gluten to bind the ingredients together. They were DELICIOUS. And cheap. Why do I ever buy veggie burgers when they are so simple to make? I spiced them up with Sriracha and extra cumin... then served them as tacos on corn tortillas with homemade Mango Salsa. (I was out of cilantro, but it worked all the same.) Next time? I'll double or triple the recipe, fry them up, then freeze them for quick meals.


If you aren't sensitive to wheat, vital wheat gluten is the key ingredient in a good veggie burger. It sticks everything together and gives a chewy texture. I can't believe it took me so long to try this recipe... but I'll definitely be revisiting it, and adding an array of spices and veggies to change it up a bit.

12 February 2011

Spicy Bliss


Now that I'm "back in action" with this blog stuff, I'm realizing that it's not as hard or complicated as it felt like for awhile. I cook, I take photos, I even take photos of food. I just need to do it for this blog!

Cooking fancy recipes out of my dozens of amazing cookbooks also doesn't have to be the only thing to blog about! Tonight I made yummy Spicy Red Bean Tacos with what I had around the house: Sriracha, spices (cumin, garlic, chili powder), onions, red beans, nutritional yeast (to give that cheesy flavor without the dairy). Top some Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory corn tortillas with the creamy spicy bean mixture, veggies, and more Sriracha!


Then there is the finale. Every spicy meal should have some sort of creamy, cool counterpart - and even though I'm not a huge dessert fan, I've found the latest guilty pleasure. Coconut milk ice cream has been a favorite (rare) indulgence for years - and the Coconut Bliss variety is my new preferred brand. The Naked Coconut flavor is perfect - not too sweet (and no sugar added - sweetened with agave!) and so creamy no one will ever know it's dairy free.

As if that deliciousness isn't enough, I topped it off with cacao nibs. It's almost impossible to go back to sugary refined chocolate after you get hooked on these. Plus they are so good for you - so you can feel good indulging! Cacao is a superfood, raw and rich with Magnesium and antioxidants. The Navitas Cacao Sweet Nibs are amazing right out of the bag.

So here we go... back to blogging (or at least throwing pictures and chatter onto here) and cooking once again. Looking forward to the months (and more exciting entries, I promise) ahead!

10 February 2011

Revival


After months and months of delay, I'm going to be back in action with this blog! I promise!

It's day 4 of our 28 Day Challenge at work, and an amazing number of co-workers have gone Vegan for the month ahead. It's awesome to be surrounded with so many healthy people! My biggest goal for the challenge is to eat more whole foods (grains, fruits & vegetables).

One of my favorite theories I've learned in school is that of "crowding out", and eating more whole foods works perfectly as an example. The basic idea of "crowding out" is to make sure that you never feel hungry. A lot of diets force you to eliminate foods out of your diet, which makes you feel deprived. Eating more nutritious and nutrient dense foods satisfies cravings and feeds the body, leaving one satiated. Just eating fruits and vegetables throughout the day makes you have a lot less room for those unhealthy choices. Having one big salad a day (like the yummy one above that Kevin made) is a great way to start.

I'm also getting a partner-in-crime for this blogging fun the next month. One of my old friends and favorite co-workers, Kevin, is going to guest blog on Inspired Vegetarian. He's a much better cook than I am, so I'm looking forward to him posting some pictures of his delicious creations. Stay tuned!

Sorry for the hiatus, and don't forget to send your comments/ideas/experiences my way! I've missed cooking, and hearing from all of you!

Much love,

Nicole