Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

This Thanksgiving presented an unfamiliar issue for me: I was shockingly lacking inspiration, motivation, and desire to prepare my vegan feast. My attitude was laissez-faire and I was more than ready to eat cereal with soy milk at the family meal. For once, I just didn't care.

Then, on Friday the 13th, when I woke up to a flat tire (a puncture wound from a screw, no big deal) and spilled 1/3 of a Sigg worth of water on my lap and all over the interior of my car within minutes of beginning my morning commute on a donut tire, my mom called. You see, her best friend, who has been part of my life for the last 23 years, is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer at the moment and the chemo has affected her taste buds to the point that she finds unpleasant many of the foods that she would usually eat on Thanksgiving. So, she asked if she could share my vegan Thanksgiving foods this year. This is the woman who selflessly cared for my mom when she had her first Crohn's disease surgery 18 years ago, while also helping the 15-year-old me through the difficulty of seeing my mom vulnerable for the first time by endlessly working crossword puzzles with me after school. She's a no-nonsense woman with an amazingly sharp wit and she is one of my favorite people in the world. Magically, my inspiration and motivation reappeared. After one 10-minute phone call, I had a full Thanksgiving menu jotted on a sticky note.

We dined on the Traditional Cranberry Sauce that I love from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan, Mashers and Two Pepper Golden Gravy from Julie Hasson's test recipes, Wild Rice Pilaf from Clean Food, Julie Hasson's test recipe for Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and a plain, baked garnet yam.

The test recipes were all delicious and I was happily surprised at how easily they came together. The pilaf was a huge hit and, although it is in the "Spring" section of the book, it has the lovely fall flavors and textures of dried cranberries and slivered almonds. I modified the recipe to eliminate the mushrooms in favor of a drained, rinsed can of chickpeas, used short-grain brown rice instead of brown basmati (that was what I had in my pantry), and omitted the shallots and oil. Baked yams (or sweet potatoes) are among my favorite foods and are so easy to make (scrub well, then prick all over with a fork and place on a foil-lined baking sheet in a pre-heated 400 degree Farenheit oven for 60 minutes or until a fork easily penetrates it).

For dessert, we shared the Baked Pumpkin Pudding from the Joy of Vegan Baking. This had the lovely spices and pumpkin flavor associated with traditional pumpkin pie, except with, in my opinion, a much better texture. Never a pie crust fan and disliking the texture of pumpkin pie, this was a nice way for me to share in the pumpkin pie festivities without actually having to eat pumpkin pie. I had to change the recipe slightly to use a 7"x11" glass casserole dish and bake for about 40 minutes because I don't have 6 oz. ramekins. It turned out perfectly.

While gratitude is a part of my daily life, on this year's Thanksgiving, I was especially thankful to be able to give back by sharing nourishing, home-cooked vegan food with someone who has been such a blessing in my life.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pre-Thanksgiving Meals

Los Angeles vegan, vegetarian, and vegan-friendly restaurants have been serving up wonderful vegan Thanksgiving-style meals this month. I sampled a couple:

When I first tried the Happy Happy Holiday Feast at Hugo's (from the menu: Two New American Veggie patties (or turkey breast, chicken breast or grilled Organic tofu) with our vegan, gluten-free mushroom gravy. Served with mixed seasonal vegetables, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes. (Vegans should substitute rice or roasted potatoes for mashed potatoes)), it was pre-movie take-out. The New American patties were the star of the show, absolutely delicious and the perfect texture. While the side of brown rice, steamed veggies, gravy, and cranberry sauce were good, this meal would be nothing special without those patties.

The Happy Happy Holiday Feast in the restaurant. Since this is a November special, there's still time for you to try it, too, if you are in the L.A. area.

Tonight, one of the most important people in my life, for whom I'm eternally grateful, and I had the Thanksgiving meal at Follow Your Heart. Their seitan turkey is unmatched, in my humble opinion, and paired beautifully with well-prepared mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, roasted green beans, and baked, spiced sweet potatoes (I definitely detected cinnamon). While I didn't care for the stuffing (it was a bit gummy) or the cranberry sauce (surprisingly lacking in flavor), the meal as a whole was extremely comforting and satisfying.

I've also enjoyed several other November specials at Hugo's and they were all great.

My very favorite Hippie Hemp Seed Salad that I wish were a permanent menu item (from the menu: Chopped leafy greens, tossed with Forbidden Rice (the same black heirloom rice that was once grown exclusively for the Emperors of China), carrots, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, dried cherries, mango, celery and a hemp seed dressing. Topped with dry-roasted almonds.).

This Moroccan-Style Stew (from the menu: Butternut squash, carrots, potatoes, green beans, garbanzo beans, garlic and raisins in a slightly spicy, exotically full-flavored Moroccan sauce. Served with a choice of Organic quinoa or brown rice, fresh mint, a side of yogurt, cucumbers and a slightly spicy harissa sauce.) was mildly spiced and hearty without being heavy. Order it without yogurt to ensure it's vegan.

The Mixed Vegetable Curry (from the menu: A blend of peppers, onions, cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, squash and celery in a light coconut-mango curry sauce. Served over a blend of Forbidden Black Rice blended with baby spinach.) was perfect in every way.

May your Thanksgiving be full of joy, laughter, warmth, and the comfort of those you love.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sarah Kramer in L.A.

Last night, our L.A. vegan community was fortunate to host the incredible Sarah Kramer, author of four fantastic vegan cookbooks and publisher of vegan wall calendars. We held a book signing event to benefit Compassion Over Killing, a multitude of L.A. vegan restaurants contributed food, and fun was had by all.

I was extra lucky to have dinner with Sarah before the event. She suggested Ethiopian food, so I took her to my favorite, Nyala. We each ordered the Vegetarian Combination and savored our food over a mixture of vegan talk and girl talk.

Once at the event, Sarah mingled a bit and then gave an inspiring talk about how she "vegan." A vegetarian since birth due to her mom's vegetarianism, she talked about growing up vegetarian in a not-so-progressive city, and how she eventually found a supportive group of like-minded friends in her late teens. Her first book, How it All Vegan, originated as a zine to give as holiday gifts. It was such a huge hit that she and her writing partner at the time decided to send book proposals to several publishers. Their first choice, Arsenal Pulp Press, immediately and enthusiastically responded and has been publishing Sarah's books ever since.

Not surprisingly, I have copies of all of Sarah's books (I picked up the most recent, Vegan-a-Go-Go, at the event last night). HIAV was published the year after I went vegetarian and I learned so much from it. More importantly, though, Sarah's writing is warm and friendly, making me feel like I had a vegan friend from afar. Through her books, she gave me recipes, eco-friendly housekeeping tips, party ideas, and travel tips. In person, she's just as lovely, friendly, and open.

What a great evening we had! Thank you to all who organized the event, to Compassion Over Killing, and, especially, to Sarah!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy Herbivore Strikes Again

Have you read the news? Did you see that Happy Herbivore is publishing a cookbook with BenBella Book Publishers, home of The China Study?

I've secretly been testing recipes like those you see above, which are Tofu Turkey smothered in Thanksgiving Gravy with a side of Mess O' Greens. I also tested a Chorizo recipe that somehow went unphotographed. There will be many, many test recipes to come!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Rejuvenative Foods

When I read the Choosing Raw post about Rejuvenative Foods, I was intrigued enough to e-mail them about their products. Roughly a month later, the Rejuvenative team e-mailed me with an offer to send samples and, of course, I accepted!

This adorable jar of raw, organic almond butter just might be the most delicious food to have ever passed my lips. The only ingredient is "organically grown raw almonds," but this doesn't taste like any almond butter I've ever eaten, raw or otherwise. It's like eating the sweetest liquid almonds and I believe that's due to the way the almond butter is processed. According to the jar, "We make our raw almond butter by grinding fresh organic almonds four or more times. Slow, repetitive grinding and cooling keeps the temperature low enough to retain enzymes and life energy. We then refrigerate it immediately to bring you a product that is truly superior, healthful and full of life energy!"

Not only is the almond butter delicious, it also has a very fluid consistency, about the viscosity of brown rice syrup. There is no oil pooling at the top of the jar, no parts that are drier than others; the almond butter is the same from the time it's opened until the time it's empty, no stirring necessary.

While it's very pricey at $22 for an 8 oz. jar, if you can afford it, I highly suggest you splurge on this incredible almond butter. I definitely would if I could.

This was my first experience eating Kim-Chi and I wasn't quite sure what to do with it, so I simply tried it straight from the jar. It has a really strong flavor that I think would be amazing paired with brown rice. Considering its richness in probiotics and enzymes, maybe I will just continue eating it one bite at a time straight from the jar.

I really love sauerkraut, but I've never had sauerkraut like this one. I'm used to sauerkraut being shredded in thin, semi-long pieces of cabbage, but this sauerkraut is more effervescent, resembling pulverized cauliflower in appearance, and almost fizzy with enzymes and probiotics. It tastes good, but I'll need to get used to the consistency.

Thank you, Rejuvenative Foods, for letting me sample your products!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy World Vegan Day 2009!

I made it through VeganMoFo with daily posting and now it's time to celebrate World Vegan Day! There's an event this evening at a local skating rink, but I'll be celebrating with a day of yoga and cooking vegan food.

I strongly believe in the power of delicious vegan food as the best advocate for veganism. Case in point, my plate from a summer dinner party (roasted Brussels sprouts, corn bread, spicy beans, and salad). Oh, and for dessert, the requisite cupcake. Have a wonderful World Vegan Day!