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!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pumpkin Muffins

Please accept my heartfelt "thank you" and enormous hugs for all of your sweet and thoughtful comments about my grandpa's passing. Being on the receiving end of your support, having not met some of you in person, is such a powerful experience. I feel truly blessed to be part of this community and I appreciate each and every one of you.

Now, if only a vegan blogger would create vegan cold cuts so I could have eaten something other than veggies and hummus between last Friday and last Monday, I'd be set. ;) Seriously, though, as much as I love hummus and veggies and rye bread, 4 full days' worth can become a bit tiresome!

Fortunately, in addition to the Quinoa Coffee Cake from yesterday's post, I baked these incredibly delicious Pumpkin Muffins from the soon-to-be-released Happy Herbivore holiday cookbook. I did eat several of these over those 4 days when I ate lunch and dinner at my mom's house while preparing for the funeral that was held on Monday.

By the way, these muffins are also fool-proof, which I discovered after accidentally omitting a seemingly key ingredient. So, there's another incentive to buy Happy Herbivore's new cookbook; even if you make a mistake, the recipes still turn out great!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Quinoa Coffee Cake

My maternal grandpa passed away early last Friday morning; a week ago today. My mom didn't call to tell me until I was walking out the door on my way to work at 7:30 a.m. because she wanted someone in the family to have had some sleep that night. She didn't want me to go to her house until 11, which left me with a significant amount of time on my hands. I did the only thing I could think to do: I baked. Of the two baked goods I prepared that morning, one was the Quinoa Coffee Cake from The Gluten-Free Vegan. I wanted to make sure my mom had something to eat and I had everything on hand for it (ok, you caught me; I didn't have sour cream, so I substituted an equal amount of Wildwood plain yogurt).

This was my first time using quinoa flour and I was surprised that it has a very distinct flavor. It's difficult to describe, as it's almost bitter, but not quite. I tasted it and decided that I wouldn't use it as a main flour again. However, I found myself continuing to sample the coffee cake over the four days it lasted and I really enjoyed it. I have a feeling that's more the fact that my taste buds are able to appreciate flavors that omnis might not, so I'm thinking this is probably not the best recipe to make for people who would expect very traditional coffee cake.

I will definitely make this again, though. The texture was soft and a bit crumbly, tasting strongly of the quinoa flour, but in a pleasant way. I thought the crumble topping was just perfect with both the cinnamon and the walnuts shining equally. Also, the coffee cake wasn't terribly sweet, which I appreciate in a baked good.

Tomorrow, I'll highlight the non-gluten-free baked good I prepared that morning. Until then, GF gets the spotlight!

Luckily, I had written and stockpiled multiple blog posts and have still not missed a day of VeganMoFo, but my grandpa's passing is the reason I haven't been commenting as much on your blogs. I'm still trying to catch up!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cookies and Buttercream

From the test kitchens for the upcoming Sweet Freedom cookbook: Easiest Almond Cookies sandwiched with Gluten Free, Soy Free, Sugar Free Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. These are wonderful, both separate and together!

I gifted these cookie sandwiches to my mom. That's her blue marble countertop in the photo.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Orange-Raisin Tea Cakes

Don't let this unassuming photo fool you; Sweet Freedom's tea cakes are flavorful and delicious!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gluten-Free Vegan Focaccia

My mom, who was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease about 17 years ago and with Celiac Disease several months ago, asked me to bake her gluten-free focaccia bread. Never mind the fact that I rarely work with yeast, how could I refuse her request? I scoured the internet and came up with this recipe.

I don't suggest you try this recipe as it didn't work for me. My yeast was brand new, I proofed it properly, even taking the water's temperature, and it still didn't rise. It remained pretty doughy after the required baking time, too. Considering how expensive the ingredients were, I expected more, but I guess we can't win them all.

Despite all this, my mom loved it! I think I'll try again and see what happens.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Butterscotch Blondies

These delicious tester blondies for the upcoming Sweet Freedom blog were an enormous hit at my office!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Whole Foods Lunch

I picked up lunch from Whole Foods the other day. These are veggie wraps and vegan chicken curry salad. If it weren't for the fact that there were unadvertised snips of chives in the curry salad, I would've absolutely loved it. It was spicy and sweet and the vegan chicken had a great texture. The wraps perfectly fulfilled my craving for fresh veggies.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

May in RI: Amy's & Johnny Rockets

You know someone really loves you when they go out of their way to make sure their home is stocked with vegan goodies for your visit. Such was my experience in Rhode Island with ma meilleure amie last May.

For breakfasts, she bought a selection of my favorite Luna bars and a box of my favorite green tea.

For lunches and dinners, she stocked up on some Amy's products!

Vegan Bean and Rice Burrito (photo from the Amy's website).

Vegan Roasted Vegetable Pizza (photo from the Amy's website).

While both of the above Amy's products list onions among the ingredients, I didn't see or taste any. The veggies on the pizza were quite sparse, so I'm thinking they were just left off!

Since we're on the subject of Amy's, I haven't had these in quite a while, but I think the Amy's Indian Samosa Wrap is delicious (photo from the Amy's website).

We also ate lunch out one day at Johnny Rockets, which serves a great vegan Boca burger that they call the Streamliner. I'm extremely picky about veggie burgers because 99.9% of them have onions cooked right in and I can't handle that. These Boca burgers are clean, though; no interior onions to be found! Ok, the ingredients list dried onions, but I can't taste or see them, so they're in the clear. While not exactly health food (they're served on a white bun, but I know for a fact that they'll give it to you between two big lettuce leaves instead if you ask), the Streamliner is good and it's a great way to get to eat at a mainstream restaurant with your omni buddies.

Thus concludes our May retrospective.

Friday, October 17, 2008

May in NYC: Babycakes NYC

The last stop on my Memorial Day weekend NYC trip was Babycakes bakery. I love that their baked goods are vegan, free of refined sugar, use spelt flour, and about half of their selections are also gluten-free.

The day I was there, I believe the non-gluten-free selection was chocolate, vanilla, carrot, and lemon. I picked up a dozen to take with me to ma meilleure amie and her family, who I was on my way to visit in Rhode Island.

Beware when you go to Babycakes that their bakery is hot! I run extremely cold and I was sweltering in that shop, so make sure you dress accordingly. The shop is quite small and it was crowded with about 6 customers that day. It's a very cute space, though.

I'd heard one of the employees telling a customer that the cupcake frosting tends to melt, so to make sure to keep it cool. We had a long drive, but I knew we'd be in a car with air conditioning, so I thought it would be fine. Well, with 6 cupcakes each in 2 boxes, I arrived in Rhode Island with one box of perfectly frosted cupcakes and one box of cupcakes with melted frosting. I thought I was in the clear because the box on top looked perfect the whole drive. Unfortunately, I didn't think to look at the bottom box!

Even more unfortunately was that I didn't really care for the cupcakes. They were too dense for my taste, which is a shame because I wanted to love them in all of their spelt flour and agave glory! I mean, it's a bakery after my own heart. Maybe they were just having an off day, but I probably wouldn't spend the $3.25 per cupcake again when I prefer the cupcakes I bake myself.

P.S. The photos I took of the Babycakes cupcakes are awful, so please look at their adorable site instead!

P.P.S. The owner of Babycakes has some cool videos and recipes on the Food Network site. Visit the Babycakes site for the link.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

May in NYC: Counter for Brunch

As you can see from the previous post, my dining experience at Counter was superb! It was so amazing, in fact, that my dad and I decided to scrap our plans to go to Teany for brunch the next morning (we've been there a ton of times already) in order to try the brunch menu at Counter. We were not sorry!

My meal was Chef Geraud's Signature Pain Perdu (from the menu: a delicious vegan twist on classic French toast with banana flambe). This was a fairly easy choice for me because I love caramelized bananas and it's rare that I eat French toast. However, all the vegan items on the menu looked delicious and I wished I could have tasted them all! I did ask the server if I could try the house-made vegan Nutella, though, and it was wonderful.

I don't care for coffee, but I like coffee-flavored sweets. In the spirit of adventure, I ordered the Chocolatey-Espresso Frappuccino (espresso-chocolate heaven with delicious vegan whipped cream and Valhrona chocolate shavings). Wow, it was like drinking a milk shake for brunch and it was fantastic!

P.S. Counter is a vegetarian, not a completely vegan, restaurant. My dad's meal was vegetarian that morning, so I didn't sample it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

May in NYC: Counter for Dinner

The next stop on the Memorial Day weekend in NYC tour (see previous post) was Counter for dinner. Between Los Angeles and New York, I've been fortunate enough to try many incredible and sometimes gourmet vegan restaurants. Counter, which is vegetarian, is quite possibly the best of the best. My dad said it's among the best restaurants (vegan and omni) that he's ever dined!

We ate early by NYC standards because we were on our way to see Rent on Broadway.

The server started us with complimentary whole grain bread accompanied by a wonderful dipping concoction.

Our appetizers were outsanding! We shared a mezze of Artichaut Farci (from the menu: stuffed artichokes), Corn Beignets with Remoulade Sauce, and Panisse with Aioli (chickpea fries).

Our other appetizer was the Potato-Almond Gnocchi (lemon-thyme sauce with crispy sage).

For the main course, we shared Chef Geraud's Signature Vegetable B'Steeya (phyllo pastry stuffed with a melange of saffron-basmati rice, vegetables, pine nuts, almond-orange blossom butter, and a side of mint-cucumber creme fraiche). Our server intuitively told me that the creme fraiche was vegan (Counter serves a few dairy items).

Who could pass up Chocolate Fondue served with fresh fruit and muffins for dessert? It was nothing short of divine.

Counter is absolutely a new favorite. Their food is flavorful, rich without being heavy, and truly gourmet. I'm struggling to find words to adequately describe the dinner experience I had there, but I certainly will return.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

May in NYC: Pure Juice and Take-away

Way back over Memorial Day weekend, I went to visit my dad in New York City. He's amazing and lets me completely plan our weekends in NYC around vegan food. In the past, we've dined at Teany (a favorite), Candle 79 (a favorite), Candle Cafe, Caravan of Dreams, Zen Palate in Union Square (apparently no longer in existence), and more. This time around, we tried a couple news places instead of returning to our old favorites.

We only had about a day and a half together this time and our first stop (for lunch) was Pure Juice and Take-away. The intention was to eat at Pure Food and Wine, but they are not open for lunch! It turned out just fine because there's a tiny (and I mean tiny; this photo is basically the entire place) take-away facet of their business around the corner from the main restaurant.

I had the delicious Spicy Thai Lettuce Wraps (from the menu: mango, savoy cabbage, pea shoots).

I don't remember whether I had the Green Spice juice (greens with lime and ginger) or the Thai Green juice (greens with pineapple, cilantro, and lime) (I think it was the latter).

My dad had a yummy taco salad that I don't see on the current incarnation of the menu.

For dessert, we shared a Mallomar (almond pecan cookie, cream, chocolate).

The food was really good, but I don't know that my dad is quite ready for raw food. He was extremely gracious about it, though!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Baked Tofu Parmesan with Marinara Sauce

For dinner Sunday night, I made Happy Herbivore's test recipe for Baked Tofu Parmesan (her blog post about it is here). It was so delicious. She will be releasing the e-cookbook with this recipe in it soon, so your wait is almost over!

Baked Tofu Parmesan Cutlets naked:

In keeping with my personal challenge to use my cookbooks more frequently during VeganMoFo, I made the Marinara from Yellow Rose Recipes (the author's blog is here) to accompany my Baked Tofu Parmesan. Even though I've had this book for ages, this was my first time cooking from it! I left out the onions and used a can of whole tomatoes instead of diced. Since the whole tomatoes broke down so easily, I didn't blend the marinara as the recipe suggested. It turned out very well and was perfect with the dish.

Yellow Rose Recipes's Marinara coating the Baked Tofu Parmesan: