Monday, December 29, 2008

An Enormous "Thank You!"

You know how sometimes you receive a gift that's so unexpected and thoughtful that it brings a lump to your throat? Such was my reaction today when I saw a shiny purple box addressed to me on my desk at work. I'd stepped away and missed the mail person bringing it by, so there it was, ready to greet me when I walked back. I don't know if she wants her identity revealed, so what I'll tell you is that this gift came straight from one of the most talented, generous, and kind vegan bloggers among us. While I thanked her privately via e-mail, these delicious brownies laced with Oreo-type cookies deserve a thank you post. Thank you, sweet and fabulous blogger friend! Again, you made my week!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holiday Lunch

This year, I really wanted to make a holiday meal. I've been invited to a vegan holiday dinner party tonight, so I made lunch!

On the right is Salisbury Seitan from the Real Food Daily Cookbook. I made a half recipe, using seitan that I'd frozen after my Iranian feast in October. My only changes were to omit the oil and substitute vegetable broth in both the seitan marinade and the Golden Gravy. Oh, and I omitted the onion and increased the garlic in the gravy, as well.

The Salisbury Seitan is a very delicious and festive dish. I've had it at the Real Food Daily restaurants, where it's served with mashed potatoes and salad in a TV dinner sort of way, but I think it transitioned well for a holiday meal. The thyme and sage compliment the other flavors, such as dijon mustard and tahini, beautifully.

Surprisingly, it was a fairly easy main dish to make, too. I already had the seitan (but that was easy to make way back when and can obviously be prepared in advance) and the marinade barely required anything more than whisking. The gravy took a very long time to thicken, so be prepared to exercise your patience and you'll be nicely rewarded for the wait.

To the left is a repeat of the cranberry sauce that I made for Thanksgiving this year, but I added in the optional balsamic vinegar this time. At the top is my favorite stuffing, made with vegetable broth instead of orange juice and pecans instead of walnuts because I'd run out (I much prefer this with the orange juice and walnuts).

I'm bringing dessert to the party this evening and it's a test recipe for Hannah Kaminsky's current cookbook project. I haven't tasted it yet, but I know it'll be worth it's own post!

P.S. Although Indian dinner would have been nice last night, yesterday's Copper Chimney post was actually from a lunch I had the first week of December! Sorry for the confusion. :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Copper Chimney, Part 2

I can hardly get enough of Copper Chimney's fabulous food. On my second visit, which was at the beginning of December (and, yes, there's already been a third!), I ordered something entirely different than the first time. Taking Foodeater's advice, I tried the Tofu Masala (from the menu: Tofu sautéed with tomatoes, onions, spices & garnished with cilantro (specially prepared sans onions pour moi)) and Paprika Rice.

Wow, the masala sauce is packed with spice and flavor and so delicious! The tofu was a bit soft, but not unpleasantly so. I'm just not sure if a tofu novice would care for the texture. While I couldn't taste the spices in the rice, it was perfectly cooked and a wonderful accompaniment to the tofu dish.

I'll be sure to stagger my Copper Chimney posts so you're not inundated, but please visit this restaurant if you're local. The staff is courteous, knowledgeable, and very friendly.

Have a wonderful holiday, whatever you're celebrating!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Proximity Award

I'm slowly making my way through the 350 or so blog posts that have been begging me to catch up on them, so you can imagine my surprise when I realized I'd completely missed being presented with an award! On December 10, the generous, hard-working, and very kind Becca of A Vegan With a Reason gifted me with the Proximity Award that's making the rounds. Thank you so much, Becca!

So as not to leave this post without a photo, here are a few goodies that I ordered with my most recent supply of Deva supplements from Vegan Essentials. From left to right, there are a vegan marshmallow kit by Angel Food, Dr. Cow aged cashew nut cheese (this had better be good considering it's a teeny tiny 3 oz. for $7), and Crumblz (now called Laura Lee's Flaky Peanut Butter Treats), which shockingly do taste like the inside of a Butterfinger candy bar.

I really dislike taking supplements, but I'm trying to heal some joint issues with Thai massage therapy and vegan supplements, so I'm doing the whole "grin and bear it" thing. It just so happens that vegan go down a little bit easier with a side of vegan goodies that aren't readily available in L.A. ;)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

L.A. Vegan Blogger Potluck!

It's true that I have many things on my figurative plate right now and I should be working on getting them done. However, last night was so amazing that I wanted to share with you as soon as possible. You see, Your Vegan Mom, Foodeater, and I decided to co-host an L.A. vegan blogger potluck at my house. Here's a break-down of who was there and what they brought (I apologize if I didn't properly describe your contribution and/or got something else wrong!):

Your Vegan Mom and her husband: Pear-ginger cocktails

Foodeater: Thai appetizers made of rice, peanuts, and taro root and rice (I think), banana, and black beans (these resembled tamales)

Quarrygirl's Miss Anthrope and Mr. Meaner: Chocolate chip cheesecake, vegan Doritos, and spinach (oops, thought it was cilantro!) dip

JennShaggy of Veganize It, Don't Criticize It: Vegan brisket and vegan jelly donut Twinkies

Sunny of Vegan Beauty Review and her husband: So Delicious ice cream and popcorn

Liz of Yo Soy: Pate from Veganomicon with tiny toasts

Alix of Cute and Delicious and her boyfriend: Mini panini filled with white bean spread, mushrooms, and (I think) spinach

Lex of and his girlfriend: Baked or broiled (I forgot to ask their method) ravioli with marinara dipping sauce

The Vegan Collection's Kevin & his girlfriend: Cinnamon rolls

I made Twice Spiced Ginger Cookies from the upcoming Sweet Freedom cookbook:

and Potato-Parsnip Latkes (oil-free!) that I adapted* from The Candle Cafe Cookbook's Mini Potato Latkes recipe:


I can hardly wait until next time!

* I omitted the onion and substituted 2 large parsnips, added 1 teaspoon of sage, went with the applesauce rather than flax egg option, used spelt flour, and made them on my non-stick electric griddle. My mix started to pool liquid, so I strained it again part-way through the prep time and just left the mix in the colander instead of in a bowl. These are probably the first latkes I've ever liked!

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Photoless Post

While I was in the Bay Area, I had the chance to cook dinner twice. I was there to help one of my oldest and dearest friends who'd just had her second baby, so what better cookbook to take along than Eat, Drink & Be Vegan? It's very kid friendly and I was cooking for two omnis and a 2.5 year old (the baby was only 2 weeks old when I arrived!), so I needed recipes with easily-recognizable ingredients. My friend and I chose the recipes that I'd be making and settled on Sweet Potato Lentil Chili and Popeye Pasta.

For the chili, I had to use yellow split peas instead of red lentils. Trips to Trader Joe's and the neighborhood Safeway proved futile in the red lentil department, so I used something I thought would provide a fairly similar texture. I also used a can of diced tomatoes and left them as they were instead of blending them as the book suggested. The wonderfully-spiced chili was a huge hit.

The Popeye Pasta was also delicious and packed with nutrients. I made chiffonade of an entire 12 oz. bag of baby spinach. That took quite a bit of patience, especially with knives in need of sharpening, but it worked out well. This was another hit with my friend and her husband, so I'm very pleased! Thanks, ED&BV!

Better Late Than Never...

As you know, I left town the day after Thanksgiving this year and was gone until the following Wednesday. It didn't make sense for me to have a ton of leftovers if I wasn't going to be able to enjoy them, so I didn't make anything that wouldn't last until I got home. I made the same stuffing and pie I blogged about last year here and, true to my word, I made the pie crustless on purpose this time. It's so fudgy and rich, but also warmly spiced. I posted the stuffing recipe here. You know it's delicious since I make it time and time again.

The new player in my Thanksgiving repertoire this year was the Traditional Cranberry Sauce from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. I love cranberry sauce and I don't care for it with orange peel, so this was my ideal recipe. I really wanted to add the intriguing optional balsamic vinegar, but my super yoga strength was not enough to wrest the cap off my bottle of vinegar. Next time!

My mom also set aside some plain green beans and sweet potatoes before she prepared their respective casseroles. All in all, it was a perfect Thanksgiving meal.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Copper Chimney

About a month ago, Foodeater wrote about an Indian restaurant called Copper Chimney. I love Indian food, but rarely eat at Indian restaurants because I'm wary of getting a belly full of ghee. So, when Foodeater mentioned that Copper Chimney has a clearly marked vegan section of their menu, I knew I had to eat there as soon as possible. The Sunday afternoon before Thanksgiving was my first opportunity.

A vegetarian friend and I took our sweet time poring over the menu, having eschewed the mostly un-vegetarian lunch buffet.

Our sweet waitress started us with this complimentary trio of chutney and pappadam. I probably would've walked away completely satisfied if this had been my only lunch. I especially loved the chutney at the top right, which was a spicy mix of crunchy veggies and garlic cloves. Moving counter-clockwise, I could detect coconut, cilantro, and chili pepper in the green chutney that was similar to salsa verde. I believe the third was a tamarind-based chutney, as it was sweet and smooth, but it also might have been mango chutney. The pappadam were crispy and flavorful, albeit a bit too thin to withstand the weight of the veggie and green chutneys.

My friend ordered Papad Roll for an appetizer (from the menu: Lightly spiced mashed potatoes stuffed inside thin lentil wafer, deep fried.) and I tried one. It was the only part of the meal I didn't enjoy. The flavor of the pappadam and the potatoes was lost in the frying, I believe. All I could really taste was fried food and I'm not a fan of fried food.

We shared the Samber Soup (from the menu: A Southern Indian style lentil soup with fresh vegetables.). It was very good and perfectly spiced.

My entree was Dal Lashooni (from the menu: Mixed dal cooked with exotic spices and garnished with garlic flakes.). I detected mung beans, two types of lentils, and kidney beans in this dish, which was basically an Indian-spiced chili. If I were to order this again, I'd order it with rice, but this time, I went for chapati (from the menu: Thinly rolled whole wheat baked bread.). I only say "if" because I'm really looking forward to sampling the other vegan dishes on the menu. There has already been a return visit to Copper Chimney! I'll blog about that later.

I just spent about 6 days in the Bay Area starting the day after Thanksgiving, which is why I haven't blogged about Thanksgiving yet and why you haven't seen many of my comments on your blogs. When I got back yesterday, I had 209 new entries on my Reader! I have my work cut out for me.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Fall Harvest

Long ago, I veganized this Butternut Squash and Parsnip Baked Pasta recipe from the November 2002 issue of Cooking Light. I hadn't made it in years because it's very time-consuming, but I missed this comfort food and decided to tackle it this past Saturday. Its warming fall flavors are perfect for this time of year and it's a dish I look forward to eating for lunch when I bring leftovers.

Here's my vegan version of the dish I've renamed Fall Harvest:


1 T olive oil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1/2 a small squash)
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled parsnip
1 T chopped fresh or 1 tsp dried rubbed sage
1 T chopped fresh or 1 tsp dried parsley (optional)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4-1/2 tsp salt, divided if using 1/2 tsp
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
8 oz. uncooked penne pasta (you might need 1/8-1 tsp cornstarch depending on type of pasta used*)
1/2 cup grated vegan mozzarella cheese, divided
Vegan parmesan to taste (optional)
Cooking spray
1 1/2 T vegan butter (I use Earth Balance)
2 T all-purpose flour
1 cup vegan milk (I use fat-free soy)


Preheat oven to 375°.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add red pepper and garlic and sauté until garlic turns lightly golden. Add squash and parsnip and sauté for 10 minutes. Stir in sage, parsley, nutmeg, allspice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and remove from heat.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to empty pot, then add squash mixture and 1/4 cup cheese, and combine. Pour the mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add milk and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Gradually add reserved cooking liquid and cook for 2 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly with a whisk (*you might need to add cornstarch, 1/8 tsp at a time to thicken the roux if your pasta water isn't starchy enough). Add 1/4 tsp salt (omit if your butter has salt in it) and 1/4 tsp pepper.

Pour milk mixture (roux) over pasta mixture and sprinkle the casserole with 1/4 cup cheese. If desired, sprinkle vegan parmesan on the casserole to taste. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

This time around, I used quinoa rotelle pasta, which apparently doesn't release much (if any) starch into its cooking water. When I realized that the roux wasn't thickening properly, I started adding cornstarch, a little at a time, until it thickened. I didn't measure, but I don't think I added more than 1/2 tsp.

Since I had Teese in the fridge, I thought I'd see how it worked in this dish. The flavor works very well with the veggies and spices, but, as you can see, it didn't melt! Well, it melted on leftovers that were heated in the microwave, but not when I baked it in the oven. Follow Your Heart mozzarella is just as good and effective in this casserole.

I'd say this is the most involved recipe I make because it requires 3 different pots and pans and the roux demands undivided attention. The results are worth the effort, but it's not something I could ever make after work on a weeknight. Save it for a weekend when you're craving comfort food.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Vegan Potluck at the Short Stop

For the last two years, the lovely Julie has been hosting the Vegan Happy Hour & Potluck at the Short Stop, a bar in Echo Park. Although Foodeater, Your Vegan Mom, and I had been trying to plan an outing to this potluck for months, we weren't able to get it together until this past Thursday. It was worth the wait!

It just so happened that we were also able to coerce Miss Anthrope and Mr. Meaner of Quarrygirl to join us and, as a wonderful bonus surprise, JennShaggy of Twinkie fame and Veganize It...Don't Criticize It was there! Hooray for an L.A. vegan blogger meet-up! I was so very excited to meet the three of them and chat the night away with like-minded people. We're already planning our next event.

I'm sure you'd like to know all about the food, since it was a potluck and this is a food blog. I baked tester Classic Peanut Butter Cookies from the upcoming Sweet Freedom cookbook (she blogged about these cookies on October 26, 2008). Foodeater's contribution was fudgy brownies that quickly disappeared. YVM brought her delicious meatballs, which were extremely welcome as the savory offerings were quite few, and yummy mint brownies. Speaking of savory goodies, JennShaggy's galettes were scrumptious and she specifically made the onion easily removable. Miss Anthrope baked cookies that I may or may not have tried (they weren't on the table when she was there, so she thought they'd already been devoured, but a bag of cookies mysteriously appeared after she'd left and I'm just not sure if they were hers that had been set aside or if someone else had brought them).

You might not believe this, but Foodeater, YVM, YVM's husband, and I headed over to Pure Luck after the potluck. Foodeater and YVM wanted to try the new faux fish, but the waiter cleverly explained that the faux fish maker "is just as flaky as the fish" and there wasn't any to be had that day. I wasn't hungry, but took it as an opportunity to grab something for the next day's lunch and ordered the Pure Luck Spring Rolls (from the menu: Spinach, basil, sprouts, lime and tofu rolled up in a flour tortilla. Served fresh or fried, spicy or mild). I chose fresh and spicy and they were perfect. I think it might be the best thing I've tried there so far. Foodeater also generously let me have few of her Potato Pals (from the menu: Small potato dumplings (gnocchi), lightly fried.). I found them doughy and not particularly interesting, although the dipping sauces were good.

All in all, it was a lovely evening with good food and great company. We really should get together more often.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Silver Lake

Two Saturdays ago (can you tell that I meant to post this blog much, much sooner?) started out on the crappy side since I woke up to a very smoky house and ash on all the surfaces where ash could have gotten inside. Fortunately for me, the Sylmar fire that started late that Friday night was several miles away, far enough that my home wasn't in danger, but close enough for me to feel the effects of the smoke and ash. My heart goes out to all those who lost homes and suffered on a far greater level.

My plans for that day included yoga followed by a fun afternoon of cooking at my house with Your Vegan Mom. We ultimately decided that it wasn't going to be fun to cook in a smoky house and met for lunch instead. I FINALLY ate at Flore!

After chattering away with a folded menu for long enough to prompt our server to give me a verbal nudge, I ordered the Burrito Flore (from the menu: Brown rice, black beans, tempeh bacon, cilantro cream, cashew cheese, lettuce, avocado (none for me!), and tomato wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. Served with pico de gallo and green salad.). This was a very yummy burrito! It needed a little spice (I've been on a spicy kick for some reason), but was otherwise quite satisfying. I liked the tempeh bacon and wished there had been more of it! It was all on one side of the burrito and I would have preferred it throughout. The tahini dressing on the salad was good, too, with a little citrus twist.

It was hard to not play "spot the blogger" at Flore. I kept wondering if there were others hiding behind their menus!

Flore's dessert options that day didn't appeal to me, so YVM and I headed over to Vegan Spot to get me one of those ever-elusive vegan Twinkies that the amazingly talented JennShaggy makes. I have it on good authority that there were no Twinkies to be found at Vegan Spot the following day, but when I was there, there were at least 10. Don't worry, I only bought one and took it to go, so it's not my fault that there weren't any the next day!

Once the Twinkie mission was accomplished, we took a walk through the neighborhood behind the restaurant, climbing a very long staircase (at the top of which we saw two butterflies engaged in a prolonged kiss), admiring the pretty houses, and then walking down the famous Music Box Stairs. I was growing more and more enamored by the minute with the view of the city that YVM was giving me, but it doesn't stop there!

Our next stop was Nature Mart, which is split into two parts: a bulk foods store and a natural foods store. I didn't have my grocery list with me, but I had a great time browsing.

Then, we headed over to Skylight Books, a fabulous independent bookstore in Los Feliz. I absolutely loved the little block where the bookstore was situated! There was a newsstand, a brasserie, a playhouse, the bookstore, and an independent movie theatre all sandwiched between two side streets on Vermont Ave. Oh, and across the street, there was a beautiful brick apartment building with fire escapes.

So, you see, that Saturday afternoon was a very happy one. I can't wait to explore that area a little more!

P.S. Can you tell from the photos that YVM introduced me to my camera's macro function that day?


Friday night, a friend (same friend with whom I saw Jack Johnson and ate at Native Foods) and I went to see Alanis Morissette play at The Orpheum Theatre in L.A. She put on an amazingly energetic performance and was very in tune with her audience.

Before the show, there was food!

While we intended to eat dinner at Shojin, a series of events (fortunate or unfortunate depending on your outlook) meant we couldn't actually find the restaurant. We were forced, instead, to head for the theatre and hope there was something vegan to eat in the area. I spotted a sign that said SipTea a couple doors down and thought there might be a decent chance of food there, so we walked in and I asked the woman behind the counter if there were vegan options. Lo and behold, there were 4 vegan menu items and multiple vegan desserts, plus soy or rice milk for the tea!

I ordered the Tofu Salad (from the menu: with heirloom tomatoes, green onion, and miso dressing (bonito flakes optional)). Let me tell you right off the bat that the menu at the restaurant did not say what the online menu says. There was no mention of bonito flakes on the menu, so thank goodness I made myself explicitly clear that I was vegan. Of course, I asked for no onion, and you can see from the photo that there was arugula included in the salad. The menu also omitted the fact that by tofu, it meant a half block of plain tofu with miso dressing on top. Now, thank goodness I'm far enough into my veganism that I can enjoy a plain block of tofu with a little miso dressing on top, but this is probably not a meal that an omni or a blossoming vegetarian would appreciate.

On top of it, my half block of tofu (which would have cost about 50 cents at Trader Joe's) cost $10.95! Oh, and when I asked for a roll so that I could at least make a sandwich out of my tofu, they charged us an extra $1 plus tax! So, a total of $12.03 for what would have essentially cost $1 to make at home. Cue the voice over: "A vegan meal two doors down from The Orpheum Theatre...priceless." All kidding aside, this was really a delicious meal that contained fresh ingredients and had clean flavors. The heirloom tomatoes were absolutely gorgeous, too.

Oh, let's not forget dessert! I convinced my buddy that we needed to try the Coconut-Lime Bar instead of the Pomegranate Cheesecake (both vegan, of course). I thought the dessert was ok, but there was something waxen about it. I could tell that it had a pureed date base, but I had a really hard time putting my finger on the waxy issue. It bothered me until late that night when I realized that it tasted like a Larabar, so that explains why it wasn't high on my list of desserts. The chai with soy milk I had was really lovely, though.

I feel like SipTea needs a disclaimer because it's only a month old. What I had there was enjoyable, the restaurant space was bright and cheerful, and they had a lot of customers in the hour we were there. I'd definitely go back and I think they can only improve. They already get big points for having so many vegan options for both meals and desserts. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Monkey Minestrone

Sunday night, I made a huge pot of the Monkey Minestrone from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. Seriously, I got 7 full dinner-size portions of soup from this recipe! I was in the mood for soup and I had all the ingredients to make this one.

However, I did reduce the oil to one teaspoon, substituted additional celery for the hated onions, and substituted peas for green beans (I didn't have any green beans). My beans of choice this time were white kidney beans and chickpeas. For the pasta, I used quinoa shells and the remaining one half of a brown rice lasagna noodle (broken into small pieces) that was lonely in its box.

I love the pop of flavor that the fresh thyme and oregano impart. Still, this soup is a little bland, probably because it's meant for children. I added more black pepper and, next time, I'll probably increase the garlic, herbs, and spices. This is a comforting, delicious soup that definitely hit the spot and made enough for an entire week worth of lunches!

Everyone at work loved the cupcakes! I think the Christmas sprinkles brought a little extra spirit to an otherwise mundane, albeit beautiful, Thursday in mid-November. I just love spreading the vegan joy through baked goods!

Sugar-Free Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Yes, I'm fully aware that we're still nearly 2 months from Christmas! What can I say? Those were the sprinkles I had and I felt like decorating!

I'd been trying to come up with a suitable vehicle for the Sugar-Free Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Sweet Freedom test recipe and finally decided on Your Basic Chocolate Cupcake from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. These pretty cupcakes will be featured on my cubicle at work tomorrow and I give them, oh, one hour to disappear.

This frosting is yet another delicious and innovative recipe. I encourage you to visit Ricki's other blog, Diet, Dessert and Dogs, where she features numerous recipes and her engaging prose. I think you'll find her recipes clever, healthful, and delicious.

In other news, I finally looked in the manual and learned how to turn off the flash on my camera!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm It!

A Vegan with a Reason tagged me to reveal 7 random facts about myself. I'm not really sure what you don't know about me by now, so I'm going to give you 7 little pieces of information from the year I lived in Toulouse, France (1996-1997).

1. I lived in a modern building in a furnished studio apartment that had very 80s decor. It was owned by a family who wanted an address in town so their son, Olivier, could go to school there. My rent was low in exchange for me tutoring Olivier in English once a week. Olivier was a heinous, horrible child who is now probably 23 or 24 years old. Regardless, I really loved that apartment.

2. I didn't know how to cook when I lived in Toulouse (gasp!). One of the other American students (I was in Toulouse for my junior year abroad through the UC (University of California) system) taught me how to perfectly cook white rice (I further perfected it by toasting the bottom of the rice in my not non-stick pan). Every night, I heated up half a can of lentils and made a cup of rice, and that was dinner. Every single night and I never tired of that meal. In fact, I sometimes miss it! Lunch wasn't much better: a "salad" of canned corn and garbanzo beans.

3. Although I can't remember its name now, I frequented an amazing independent movie theatre that was a block from my apartment. I could buy a book of tickets at a discounted price and I would always look forward to picking up their monthly film schedule. I saw so many fantastic independent films there and, for some reason, I can only name two off the top of my head: "Breaking the Waves" and "Reservoir Dogs." Believe me, there were so many more. At a mainstream movie theatre, I saw the Woody Allen movie, "Everyone Says I Love You." To this day, I still call it "Tout Le Monde Dit I Love You."

4. I traveled on my own to Nice, Monaco, and Monte Carlo for a week around Easter. As I neared the end of my trip, I was running out of money and decided to buy a loaf of bread and peanut butter. I'm not sure what I was thinking because I'd already been in France for about 8 months and knew that peanut butter and sliced bread were fairly uncommon there. However, I managed to find them at a store in Monaco and lived off them for the rest of the trip.

5. I'd never cared for tea until my year abroad. Then, on the flight I took to London, I was absolutely freezing and I really never cared for coffee. So, I gave tea a try and continued to drink it the whole time I was in London. However, I didn't become a tea lover until a couple months later when I came down with gastroenteritis while visiting the Louvre around Christmas time. It's been one of my staples ever since.

6. I took all my classes in French that year (I was a French major, so it was an amazing opportunity to absorb and learn everything I could). With the exception of 2 students, none of my classmates knew I was American. Until, that is, the day my linguistics teacher called me out to pronounce a few English words for the class.

7. Toulouse was the first place I'd ever attended a farmers' market and it's where I learned to love grapefruit. It's also where I tried my first fig, date, dried plum, eggplant, and quinoa!

I can't possibly choose 7 other bloggers to take this challenge, so I'll just put it out there for anyone who would like to share.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

Happy Herbivore says she created this Pudge-Free Holidays recipe just for me and my love of chocolate mint. Trust me, that is a very high honor and one that I do not take lightly. In fact, I think I blushed when she told me! These are must-make cupcakes for the holidays, so go buy the e-cookbook!

I made a savory Happy Herbivore test recipe for dinner tonight. The quesadilla using Jalapeno Cheddar Cheeze didn't photograph well, so you'll have to take my word for it that it was good. Unfortunately, you have a long wait for the recipe; I'm not sure of the release date for the e-cookbook in which it will appear.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sweet Harvest Muffins

These amazing Sweet Harvest Muffins were part of my baking and cooking extravaganza the weekend of October 25th. Yes, I prepared so many different recipes that weekend that there are still many left to share! That's not to mention all the baking and cooking I've done since that weekend.

I shared these Sweet Freedom test muffins with my yoga teacher and massage therapist, both of whom enthusiastically requested the recipe. Of course, I had to let them down easy because I can't share test recipes, but I promised to make them again. I'd say that's good enough!

Today has been blustery and cold (I run extremely cold, so anything below 75F is cold to me, but today was 65F in the afternoon and I was freezing!) and the only thing I've had on my mind is soup. I'm about to make Monkey Minestrone from Dreena Burton's Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan for the first time.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Traditional Thanksgiving Stuffing

Did this post's title throw you off or did it make you think I was crazy? Although the U.S.'s Thanksgiving is still nearly 3 weeks away, I made this stuffing as a test recipe for Happy Herbivore's newest e-cookbook, Pudge-Free Holidays way back in October. As a variation, I added leftover Grammy's Meatless Balls, which I tested from the same cookbook and blogged about here.

The little green pouch that sneakily made its way into the photo is my new camera case.

Vegyogini's test kitchen is open for the weekend, so I'd better get baking. Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Can you believe that this lasagna was a first for me? Ricotta was always something I couldn't stand growing up (I never grew out of that) and that made lasagna a "no, thanks" food for me. Obviously, that means that I've never missed lasagna as a vegan because I couldn't possibly miss something I'd never eaten. However, I promised ma meilleure amie that I would give lasagna a shot sometime soon.

I had an 8 oz. bag of crimini mushrooms, 7.5 oz. of spinach, and 2 zucchini in the fridge, plus about 2 cups of leftover Marinara from Yellow Rose Recipes and it seemed like those were just the right ingredients to concoct my own lasagna. All I needed to buy was a box of brown rice lasagna noodles and I was ready to create!

My first step (after pre-heating the oven to 375 F) was to prepare vegan ricotta. I based it on the Basil-Tofu Ricotta from Vegan with a Vengeance with these changes: I halved the recipe and used extra-firm tofu, a small clove of garlic, 1 tsp of Toffuti Better Than Cream Cheese instead of olive oil, and vegan parmesan instead of nutritional yeast.

Next, I prepared the veggies. I dry sauteed the mushrooms and zucchini in a skillet over medium heat (I'd cut them into thin half-moons first) with about 5 garlic cloves (minced) that were on their way out. The reason I dry sauteed the veggies is two-fold: 1) I didn't want to add fat to the dish by sauteeing in oil and 2) I knew the veggies would release water after they'd been in the skillet for a few minutes, thus providing their own sauteeing liquid. I allowed the veggies to brown and then, once they released their liquid, added the spinach to the pan, put the lid on, and let the spinach steam until bright green.

When the veggies were ready, I started layering the lasagna in a 9"x13" Pyrex casserole dish. The layers were: a little sauce to coat the bottom of the dish, 3 lasagna noodles, 1/2 the ricotta, 1/2 the veggies, a little sauce, 3 lasagna noodles, 1/2 the ricotta, 1/2 the veggies, a little sauce, 3 lasagna noodles, the remaining sauce, and a ton of Teese mozzarella on top. I filled in the gaps of the dish with extra broken noodle pieces (the brown rice noodles were of the no-boil variety). Then, I covered the dish with foil, put it in the oven for 30 minutes, removed the foil, and baked it for an additional 25 minutes.

Please don't think this first attempt at lasagna was perfect because it most certainly was not. I didn't have enough ricotta (I'll make a full recipe next time), veggies (who would have thought that all those veggies wouldn't be enough?), or sauce. I'd use a slightly smaller dish (one that the noodles would fill easier) and I'd leave the foil on for 45-50 minutes, cooking for 55-60 minutes total. One of the noodles slipped and arched awkwardly and the Teese melted unevenly. However, my first lasagna was (well, is, since I'm still eating the leftovers for lunch every day this week as you can see from the above photo) absolutely delicious! I'm pretty excited about the little culinary world I just opened for myself and I've decided that the next lasagna should definitely include roasted or grilled eggplant.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Day!

Election Day is finally here! It's a day we've all been anticipating for what seems like ages. I voted at 7 a.m. before leaving for work, not wanting to stress about sitting in traffic on the way home and cutting it too close for my personal comfort. Isn't there something so incredibly satisfying about voting? I feel that way especially this year when California has so many important props on the ballot and, of course, this is the most exciting presidential election of my lifetime so far.

I actually wrote the above paragraph last night in anticipation of today's election. I did, indeed, arrive at my polling place at about 7 minutes to 7 a.m. and I was behind 50 people who had beat me there! The line kept growing and growing. Everyone there was in a congenial mood, chatting with strangers, and excited in general. An older man brought donuts for the crowd (obviously not vegan) and a woman brought her dog.

When it was finally my turn, I opened my sample ballot and VERY carefully filled in my real ballot. I literally triple-checked to make sure I didn't accidentally vote the opposite of how I wanted to vote. Finally, I was satisfied, took my ballot to the box, inserted it, and collected my "I voted" sticker, proudly displaying it on my Matt & Nat purse.

It was business as usual in the office until we got to about 3 p.m. Our assistant, who I also consider a good friend, had convinced me to hit happy hour with her (the restaurant offered a free plate of 3 little tacos and a free tequila shot per person who had their "I voted" sticker; both my tacos and my shot went to our assistant) to watch the election coverage. Our second stop was to be a free Obama party at the Century Plaza Hotel where Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and many others were slated to be. The doors were scheduled to open at 8:01 p.m. when the polls closed in California. When we left the office at 6, we never expected the tally to happen so quickly. The next thing we knew, Obama had 207 electoral votes under his belt, so we left happy hour for Ben & Jerry's (serving up a free scoop of ice cream, sorbet for me, to everyone) and then for the Plaza. As we walked toward the Plaza's front doors at 8:01 p.m., screams erupted. Obama had already won! The energy was intoxicating, the screams were joyful and hopeful and contagious. We joined the celebration in the hotel's lobby, but never made it to the party itself. People kept spontaneously bursting into chants of "O-BA-MA! O-BA-MA!" We would have stayed longer, but it was just too crowded and we both wanted to hear Obama's speech.

We made it back to the car just in time to hear the tail-end of McCain's concession speech. I will look up the footage later so I can hear the whole thing. I did, however, hear the entirety of Obama's speech and am grateful to have had that experience.

One of my closest friends has been tirelessly working on the Obama campaign for over two years. He is in Chicago celebrating tonight after driving people to the polls and performing other campaign duties. I both thanked and congratulated him tonight. Without people volunteering their time, campaigns would never get off the ground.

This is one of the most personal posts I've written and one that has nothing to do with food. Hugger Food will return to its regularly-scheduled programming with the next post in which I will tell you all about my first experience making lasagna. :)

Vegan Drinks Meetup

Saturday evening, Happy Herbivore, her husband, and I set off for the Vegan Drinks Meetup at Sante La Brea. Lex of is the Meetup organizer and he very generously bought a round of drinks for everyone (mine was a passion fruit iced tea, although I think he really meant beers!). Thanks, Lex!

Some people ordered food, including Happy Herbivore's husband, who ordered the Blue Corn Nachos (from the menu: Toasted blue corn chips topped with black bean sauce, melted soy cheese, cilantro, and scallions). I tried the one chip that had some soy cheese on it and not a dreaded scallion. I didn't really care for the soy cheese, unfortunately, and the chips were far too salty. Also, there wasn't a black bean sauce, but actual black beans, which is just as good, if not better, in my opinion. While I wouldn't order these nachos myself (try Real Food Daily's Better with Cheddar Nachos, though!), I'm glad I got to try them.

A very sweet girl in a "Powered by Tofu" t-shirt was kind enough to share a bite of her chocolate peanut butter pie with us. Happy Herbivore said it best when she exclaimed, "It tastes better than how I remember a Reese's peanut butter cup tasting!" She was absolutely right, too. I took a bite and my eyes got huge. It was really good!

While I was hoping to meet all the L.A. vegan bloggers that I'd not yet met, I believe the only other bloggers there were the couple behind the Vegan Collection (check out their blog for some beautiful photos, including one of the chocolate peanut butter pie). That just means more new people to meet next time! Everyone I met that night was friendly, generous, and eager to engage in conversation. I had so much fun spending an evening with like-minded people and it was a great way to celebrate World Vegan Day!

Before the Meetup, I had an eat-and-run dinner with some of my family at our favorite Italian restaurant, Gio Cucina Napoletana. I can't speak highly enough of this restaurant (I briefly reviewed it for VeganMoFo 2007). They not only understand the definition of veganism, but they offer an amazing selection of vegan dishes, including 4 seasonal vegan daily soup specials. I usually get a bowl of soup when I dine there and this time was no exception. I was sold on the chickpea soup (the first time they've had that on a day I've eaten there) and it was deliciously hearty and comforting.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

World Vegan Day 2008

Happy World Vegan Day! I'm waiting for my cup of tea to finish steeping while I listen to the rain outside. Yes, it's actually raining in sunny southern California despite what the old song says. To those of you celebrating Dia de los Muertos today at the Forever Hollywood Cemetery, I hope the rain is adding to the ambiance.

Having curly hair and being constantly cold, I'm not a huge fan of being outside in the rain. I'm always grateful when the rain arrives on a weekend so that I don't have to sit in 405 traffic, but today is not a day when I have the liberty to hang out at home baking and watching movies. I have a baby shower and a family dinner to attend before the fun part...a vegan meet-up! I think that's a fitting way to spend the evening of World Vegan Day.

Yet another wonderful way to celebrate is by purchasing Happy Herbivore's new e-cookbook, Pudge-Free Holidays. It's finally here and ready to help you create wonderful new memories this holiday season. Pictured above is the incredibly delicious Cornbread Stuffing with "Chorizo." This stuffing features the Southern Cornbread about which I posted a couple days ago from the same e-cookbook. Not only did I enjoy eating this stuffing, but I got multiple compliments about how good it smelled on the days I heated up leftovers in the microwave at work. It was definitely a conversation starter and simply solidified the notion that food is the best ambassador for veganism.

Before I end this post, here's a little anecdote from Halloween last night: I've lived in the same place for 10 years and had literally had one trick-or-treater here (it was 9 years ago) in that time. Obviously, I never buy treats because I never have trick-or-treaters. So, you can imagine my surprise when my doorbell rang last night and I found a miniature SpiderMan and a miniature Bob the Builder (a little girl, no less) on my doorstep. I had one individual-size bag of vegan chocolate soccer balls and one little box of raisins, but those weren't a match and I'm all about fairness. The only thing I found that I had 2 of was ProBars, the Original Blend flavor. The reason this is so awful is twofold: 1) I gave kids meal-replacement bars for Halloween and that is just intrinsically wrong; 2) ProBars are disgusting, loaded with fat, and highly caloric. (I had the Koka Moka flavor once and it was foul, then I tried 3 bite-size samples of other flavors at Whole Foods and they were outrageously salty.) Even though I'd never seen those children and their mother before, I still feed bad about it and wish I'd had something better to offer. Next year, I will be better prepared!

I'm so excited that November is finally here because it means we get to vote in 3 days! Have a fabulous Saturday!

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Post That Concludes VeganMoFo 2008

Today is the last day of VeganMoFo and I decided to wait until the evening to post. It's still October 31 in all of the U.S., but I apologize to those of you in time zones that have pushed this post to November 1. I'm really pleased that I accomplished my goal of posting every single day during the month of October. I'll miss the urgency of posting immediately before leaving for work in the morning, I think. I'll definitely miss the deep orange VeganMoFo logo adorning all of my posts! I've learned a lot about those of you reading and those of you whose blogs I read and I thank you all for participating by either reading or writing. Hopefully, VeganMoFo will have given me the push to post more than I used to pre-October 2008. We'll see!

I'm leaving you with a sweet treat to celebrate Halloween and the end of VeganMoFo: These are absolutely delicious Gluten-Free Coconut Macaroons from the upcoming Sweet Freedom cookbook. It's due out in 2009, so check the Sweet Freedom blog for updates.

Happy Halloween to all! Be safe and have fun!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cornbread and a Vegan Athlete

While I'm not a cornbread connoisseur, I do know that this Happy Herbivore test cornbread is the most flavorful, moist, and healthful cornbread recipe I've ever tried.

In other news, John Salley, of NBA fame, appeared on an episode of Rachael Ray's daytime talk show last week. He openly discussed his VEGANISM (edited clip here), explaining that he "decided not to die at a young age because I love my life" and became vegetarian in 1991 when he was diagnosed with high cholesterol. Unfortunately, the clip doesn't show the part when he talked about going vegan, so I can't recall exactly how long he has been vegan. When asked where he gets his protein, his answer is: "You get your protein the same place animals get it from; green leafy vegetables." On top of touting veganism on national TV, he was hawking his own line of foods, which are organic, vegan, and kosher. Way to go, John Salley!

Oh, I also have to mention that Rachael's cooking segment that came later in the show was for a chicken club quesadilla, but she was so rattled by having a vegan on the show that she constantly reiterated the fact that any animal product in the dish was easily replaced with a vegan or vegetarian alternative. :)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Crispy Fruit Chews

Oh, yes, I was a whirling dervish in the kitchen this weekend. I baked up a storm and then some! I don't even want to think about the number of hours my oven was on, but I'm sure next month's gas bill will be a bit higher than usual. I have a feeling this coming weekend will be similar, so it's a good thing that I truly enjoy baking and cooking.

Like many of you, I find my time in the kitchen to be therapeutic at best or a fantastic distraction at the very least. Sometimes, I'll just turn the TV up in the other room to have some background noise. More often, I rock out while I'm cooking and baking. Of course, sometimes, I just need to be alone with my thoughts and my recipes.

The entire process is so satisfying to me; meticulously reviewing a recipe and then following the steps, messing up the kitchen along the way, but cleaning it as soon as the hands-on preparation is complete. I love the feeling of looking around my once-again spotless (well, close enough) kitchen just as my meal or baked good is ready. Above all else, though, the most pleasurable part of cooking and baking is sharing the final product with someone else. While it's not often that I have the opportunity to cook a meal for another, I always share my baked goods. It's a great way to create good will in the office or to show someone I care.

These outrageously delicious Crispy Fruit Chews were the result of a test recipe for the upcoming Sweet Freedom cookbook. I shared them with my mom and my guitar teacher (after I sampled them, of course). They were a huge hit!

I have so much more to share with you from my weekend baking extravaganza. Don't worry; I made a few savory dishes, too!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Apple Cake Cupcakes

These Happy Herbivore test recipe cupcakes were surprisingly good! They disappeared in minutes when I took them to my office yesterday morning. Your wait is almost over; I believe the e-cookbook is due to drop on November 1.

Thank you for all your cricket advice and anecdotes from the last post. It's nice to have someone to ask!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday Brunch at Madeleine Bistro

I spent the afternoon with my mom yesterday. When she suggested lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, Madeleine Bistro, I was very pleasantly surprised.

After perusing the menu (I don't see the brunch menu online, sadly), I chose a sandwich I'd enjoyed before. I believe it's called the Cajun Caesar Sandwich, but I can't verify that without the menu. On the side, I had a Caesar salad. The sandwich is composed of delicious, juicy, spicy, Caesar dressing-marinated seitan, romaine lettuce, and tomato on sourdough. It's one of those sandwiches that requires careful attention or else yummy, spicy juices will be dripping down your arm. Interestingly, they now offer the sandwich in either a half or a full size. I ordered full so I could save half for another meal, but I thought that was an excellent idea.

Chef Dave's Caesar dressing is really wonderful. It has just the right amount of garlic and is creamy without being heavy.

To drink, I chose something suitable autumnal: Apple Cinnamon Caramel Juice (or something like that). Madeleine's fresh-squeezed apple juice is superb and this was a fun and yummy variation on the original.

Oh, and guess who else was dining at Madeleine's this afternoon? None other than Emily Deschanel of Bones. Oh, and one of my mom's former colleagues and his family was there, too. :)

We went on a Target shopping spree after lunch and my mom bought me some fun new kitchen toys (thanks, Mom!), including a fine-mesh sieve (finally, I won't lose 3/4 of my quinoa while rinsing it!), a muffin tin that has a plastic cover for transportation (useful for taking cupcakes in to work), cupcake liners, a cute new camera case (I just might photograph it so you can see what it looks like), and some filters for my Brita pitcher.

I spent a significant amount of time in the kitchen this weekend, making up for lost time since I wasn't able to test any recipes last weekend. I believe I made 10 separate recipes! I'll be sharing photos with you this week and next.

One final thing before I end this post: Crickets have taken a liking to my home. I've escorted three outside on three separate occasions (usually after chasing them around the kitchen and/or family room for a while first) and there is another one currently hiding under my oven. He was on my dishwasher last night, hopped away before I could get him, just showed himself on the kitchen floor, and hid under the oven before I could grab a mug to cover him. While I appreciate that they are gracing me with their presence, I really don't want crickets in my home, especially in my kitchen. Does anyone have any humane ideas that would stop them from coming in? I have no idea where their entry point is because I rarely open the front door (I come in through the garage, which is on a separate level from the kitchen/family room). I'd appreciate any suggestions.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cinnamon Buns

Never in my life had I made cinnamon buns before tackling this test recipe for the upcoming Sweet Freedom cookbook. I'd never made them from scratch nor had I made them from one of those tubes in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. I'd also never tasted cinnamon buns this delicious until I tried one of these straight from the oven!