I’ve been CHOPPED (…but vegans chop more compassionately so it’s cool).

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Awwww…. well, the first vegan/chopped challenge has come to an end, and I’m sad to say I didn’t win…. but it was lots of fun.

I was thinking that I should try to create the other 2 dishes I was considering for the contest (but knew would come in well over 40 minutes), just to see what happens with them.

The first was a chilled minted pea soup w/ blackberry drizzle in an edible chocolate chili bowl and my other idea was a chocolate curry with stuffed paratha and a blackberry chutney….

To be honest though, I have no desire to make chocolate bowls or chocolate curry…ever.  I don’t even like chocolate.   The stuffed paratha though might be a keeper and I am very fond of pea soup.

The winner did a lovely job with her mock salmon! Big ups to her and all the other entries and winners.  See the complete post of the winners and runners up with their lovely entries here.

Thanks to all who helped me brainstorm, ate my food, and of course to my photographer/sous chef Derek for all the wonderful dancing.

 

(virtual) Vegan Chopped!! Gemelli w/ Mint Pesto & Herbed Beanballs

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…Remember that time that that I didn’t blog for like six months and then one day I did…like nothing ever happened?

So, everyone’s favorite vegan chefs over at the PPK proposed a challenge to all of us wanna be cheffers. May I present (virtual) vegan CHOPPED! Like the famous cooking show, each contestant is presented with weird ingredients that don’t seemingly go together well, a pantry full of kitchen staples, a course specification, and a time limit.  Now since this is a virtual competition, we’re on the honor system here. We’re being judged by creativity, presentation, and taste (or what you’d guess it would taste like, rather).

MYSTERY INGREDIENTS:  fresh blackberries, mint, (canned) black eyed peas, bittersweet chocolate

COURSE: entreé

TIME: approximately 40 minutes

(v)V.CHOPPED!!

My entry:

Gemelli with Mint and Herbed Beanballs:

Gemelli pasta w/ a fresh mint pesto accompanied by herbed beanballs in a sweet & sour balsamic reduction on bed of toasted pistachios

 

Ingredients:

1lb gemelli

1/2c toasted chopped pistachios

fresh or frozen petite pois

for the pesto:

lots of fresh mint

olive oil

garlic

nooch

edamame

walnuts

salt

for the beanballs:

black eyed peas

vital wheat gluten

water/almond  milk

nooch

tarragon (my favorite secret weapon!)

rosemary

thyme

salt

pepper

garlic

onion

for the reduction:

balsamic vingear

bittersweet chocolate

fresh blackberries

hot sauce

ketchup (don’t doubt me on this one)

cayenne powder

chili powder

Method:

It’s a little tough to write and cook and guess and create and measure and cross your fingers all at the same time. Luckily I had the help of D, my favorite  kitchen elf, to at least keep track of the ingredients I used and the order of the steps I took. Exact measurements would have to come from a second (or 3rd) go at this recipe. My apologies! Besides, cooking is so much more fun on the fly anyways… If you’re brave enough to attempt a recipe like this, I’m sure you’re brave enough to wing it.

1) Cook pasta al dente. Set aside. Blanche peas.

2) put all ingredients in food processor for pesto. Process until you have a creamy paste, adding olive oil and/or water as needed to thin it out.

3) mash beans. add a bit of oil and seasonings to get a crumbly but moist texture. Add VWG and knead until gluten activates.  Form into balls and fry in olive oil in cast iron over med low heat, turning so they brown on all sides ( you could also bake but it will take longer).

4) while doing this, make the reduction. Bring vinegar to a simmer adding in chocolate and berries (2:1 ratio vinegar:chocolate). Stir often. When berried begin to break down, add hot sauce, cayenne, ketchup, and chili powder to taste. Remove from heat when sufficiently thickened. DO NOT BURN CHOCOLATE!

5) Mix pesto, peas, and pasta together.

6) to plate: a scoop of pasta sprinkle with a few pistachios for crunch. place beanballs on a bed of pistachios and top with a drizzle of the reduction and a small mint leaf. Garnish with a few blackberries and mint leaves because they’re pretty, dammit!

7) eat and amaze people with your weird food combination!

*** I bet this would be lovely paired with a refreshing summer cocktail of muddled fresh mint leaves, blackberries, simple syrup/sugar, and vodka/gin.  CHEERS!

TOUM me or not toum me…. that is the question.

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I’ve been testing some more recipes for culinary goddess Terry Romero for her upcoming international cookbook Vegan Eats World and stumbled upon Toum. I had no idea what it was, so that usually makes me want to make it even more.  Come to find out, toum is a Lebanese garlic sauce that is often served with veggies, bread, or as a dip for some type of kebob.  It’s similar in theory to the more familiar aioli and the less familiar Greek skordalia (which was coincidentally the very first recipe I tested for this cookbook months ago).

Toum is not for the meek. It is not the condiment to use before a big date. Actually, you may not want to consume toum if you have to see other people at all for the next 48-72 hours.  Since after tasting it, it will be impossible to never make it again, my suggestion would just be to feed it to everyone you know. Then you’ll all have dragon breath together.

This creamy white puree has about 18-20 cloves of fresh garlic, salt, olive oil, lemon juice, and the secret thickener *drum roll please*, a touch of potato.  Oh and it only makes about 3/4c….and you could probably eat it all in one sitting.

I can’t wait to experiment with this on more than just pita! Steamed green beans immediately come to mind, as does using it as an international helper for a roasted red pepper, arugula, basil, and grilled eggplant sangweech.  Something fun and funky with pineapple may be in it’s future as well.

So if you come across some toum, by all means eat it. On everything. When the cookbook comes out, make it. 4 lyf.  But for the love of everyone you know, please  make sure you have some gum.

Holy !@*#! I ate pizza! :(

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Yup, I did it. I ate pizza.

It wasn’t one of my shining moments, but damn it was good.  Now that’s not me in the photo, thankfully there is no photographical record of this event, but after much internal quandary I felt it was important to share this information with well, the world or whomever may read this.

“Why?” you might ask. Well, I’ll tell you. It was 3am on a Saturday night and I found myself in the North End shuddering at the thought of only french fries in my Jameson filled belly. I was hungry, dammit! And if you’re gonna screw up and eat pizza, the North End is an admirable place to do so.

Yes, I now realize I did indeed have options that didn’t present to me at the time.  I could have ordered with no cheese.  I could have gotten some type of cheeseless calzone.  I could have gone home at 3am instead of out for pizza. Or I could have just enjoyed having a great pizza and gone back to my vegan diet the next day as if nothing had happened.

I chose the latter.

The reason I share this, despite potential jeers and heckles from the vegan police, is because I am still vegan. That was weeks ago, and it didn’t “turn me back”, so to speak.  I am so much more mindful of the food I consume now than I ever have been.  My body is healthier. My mind is clearer. My heart is more compassionate.

Pizza didn’t break me. I accepted the choice I made and carried on.

Traditionally being vegan is all or nothing.  I challenge that and say that there is a middle way. The slope is not slippery. Hell, it’s not even a slope.  So if you recklessly eat some cheese, don’t jump ship, (wo)/man. If you have to change your online dating profile to read “mostly vegan” instead of “strictly vegan,” yeah…. you might get kicked out of some clubs, but are you doing this for yourself or to be a member?

I say you’re still doing good things.  Just keep on keepin’ on.

Mangez Plus Petit Dejuener!

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or “Eat More (french) Breakfast!”

Well, that’s kind of a lie.  If I wanted you to eat more French breakfast, I’d merely be pushing black coffee and a chunk of crusty baguette with a bit of jam (which also sounds quite delightful actually).  This misnomered breakfast (which in France is actually called “pain purdu,” or “lost bread”), may not actually be french, but serving it à votre amis will make you feel like a vegan Jaques Pepin.  It’s perfect for a weekend brunch but also quick and easy enough for a weekday if you’re ambitious enough for anything more than running out the door 10 minutes late with a banana in one hand and a coke zero in the other.

So start working on your bad french accents and get your rear out of bed and into that kitchen!

*this recipe was partly inspired by a recipe I found online that seems to be from the cookbook How It All Vegan by Tanya Barnard & Sarah Kramer.  I’m not really sure though. You should check out that cookbook anyways though. You can never have too many veg recipes!*

eggfreedom french toast

makes 2 servings, (2 slices each)- feel free to half or double as the case may be:  approx. 20 minutes

ingredients:

  • 4 slices of bread (I like to use Jessica’s Brick Oven French Toast Bread with it’s beautiful swirls of goodness, but if it’s not available in your area any bread will do though…cinnamon bread would be lovely as well!)
  • 1c unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or plain with a drop of vanilla extract)
  • 4t flour
  • 2t nutritional yeast
  • 1/4t cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 2t golden flaxseed (optional)
  • powdered sugar for sprinkling (optional)
  • 1T or more earth balance/cooking spray combo

note:  if you want to serve the lovely salad featured, it’s simply 1/2c baby arugula topped with fresh orange segments (from 1/2 orange), 1T sliced almonds, and 1T dried cranberries.  Super easy, super tasty & healthy, and it makes the dish look like fashionweek à Paris.

method:

  1. In large measuring cup, whisk together everything but the bread until there are no clumps.  Pour it out into a shallow bowl.  (An 11″x7″ or 12″x8″ casserole dish works great. In a pinch, a pie plate will do too, but you’ll have to soak in batches)
  2. Soak the bread for at least 2-3 minutes per side- the longer you soak, the yummier it will be, but don’t let it get too soggy or it’ll be a PitA to cook.  If you’re using them, make sure you have good  flaxseed coverage on each slice.
  3. Melt half of the earth balance in a 10″ cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add 2 slices of the soaked bread and let cook until golden brown (about 5 minutes per side).  Flip over and do the same for the other side, adding more earth balance or cooking spray (depending upon your caloric needs for the day) if needed. Repeat with the other 1/2T earth balance and remaining 2 slices of bread.
  4. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and/or warm maple syrup and earth balance.  Garnish with fruit salad.

Now eat and go back to bed, mon petit chou.  You’ve worked hard, but not really at all.

Bon Appétit!

A winter reprieve- Herbed Penne with Lemon, Garlic, and Capers

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This winter thing, yeah- it’s really getting old.  It has been relatively mild for New England this year, so I can’t complain too much, but I’m pretty certain that restless spirit of mine rears her little head around this time every year whether it’s 40 degrees or 14.   Maybe it’s the greyness, the lack of vegetation, the calm after the holidays, or a delightful cocktail of the above, but I’m finding myself daydreaming about all things spring related.  I’m mapping out plans for my tiny raised bed garden (that I generally neglect and destroy).  I’m growing all kinds of (legal) windowsill herbs.  I’ve also been finding myself creating wildly unseasonable meals.  I do love eating in season, but com’ on, son,  you can only eat cabbage and onions for so long and still keep your friends.

So I present to you this: a crazy fresh zingy springtime recipe from the depths of winter.  Perfect eaten steaming out of the pan, at room temperature, or if you’re really getting nostalgic, chilled as a pasta salad of sorts.  You could use any type of pasta for this, but I prefer penne here. I like to be surprised by the bites of caper that get trapped inside and the lovely herbs that adhere to the groved exterior.

Measurements are approximate for this one, so tweak as you see fit to your taste. It was another 2am-I’m-not-writing-anything-down creation…which means it’s a really quick dish to put together as well. ;)

Just don’t skimp on the fresh basil please.

Herbed Penne with Lemon, Garlic, and Capers

HERBED PENNE WITH LEMON, GARLIC, AND CAPERS

serves 2 (or 1 if you’re seriously carb loading that day)

takes about 30 minutes

ingredients:

1/3 box penne pasta

1T+1T earth balance (that means separate it)

2T olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (not through a garlic press)

1/2-1 t crushed red pepper flakes

2T lemon juice (juice from 1 lemon if you’re feeling fancy)

2T dry white wine (optional.  NB: using the wine and lemon juice together makes this kind of acidic.  If that bothers you, just use lemon & pasta water)

1T drained capers

1t dried oregano (1T if you have fresh)

1T dried parsley (1/4c chopped if you have fresh)

1/2c fresh basil, chopped (dried won’t cut it)

salt and pepper to taste (I used about 4 mill twists of sea salt and 8 twists of black pepper)

1c baby arugula

2 plum tomatoes, diced

1/4 c sliced almonds

2T french fried onions (optional, but delicious. I use fried red onion strings from my Asian grocer. I’m sure french’s would be fine…or a little shake of onion powder instead)

method:

boil your pasta according to the package directions, taking it out when it is just about 1 minute under the al dente cook time.  Save about 3/4c or so of the pasta water.

heat up oil and 1T earth balance in a good sized cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the hot pepper flakes and garlic and saute for about 3-4 minutes until garlic gets soft but not browned. Add tomatoes, dried herbs, and lemon juice and let this simmer down for about 5 minutes. You can add some of your reserved pasta water if you need to.

Keeping your pan on medium heat, add the pasta and toss to coat in the sauce. Cook for about another 5 minutes.  Again, if it’s not liquidy enough add a few tablespoons of pasta water. Throw in your capers and deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up all the yummy tomato bits that stuck to the bottom. Now is the time for you to salt and pepper. Add more lemon juice if you want some extra tang, pasta water if you need more liquid.

Remove from heat. Add your last 1T of earth balance.  Mix in fresh basil and arugula. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and french fried onions immediately if eating hot or just before serving so they keep their crunch if eating at either room temperature (my preference) or chilled.

Eat and pretend it’s not winter.  <——– that’s my favorite part!

Can I get some fries with that burgercake-cake, cutie?

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It’s the end of January, and I’ve taken way too much time off from my newly begotten bloggie blog.

Therefore in an attempt to forget the ice of Boston (but never The Dismemberment Plan) and pretend I actually have something to share, I decided to recall one of my favorite summer creations…and post a photo of one of my handsomepants nephews, Tyler.

So I didn’t make these.  They are the product of my dear vegan baker extraordinaire Bea. I’m not sure of the recipe or where she got it, but I’m guessing it’s her own spin on some PPK goodness.  I did however eat them and I can tell you that not only were they fck-me adorable, they were kill-me delicious.

The time and attention to detail to make these babies (including “borrowing”  peanut containers from 5Guys) is of the kind which I will never possess, but I’m thrilled I got to not only enjoy them but feed them to a crowd at a very meaty barbecue.

They are a chocolate “burger” center with a vanilla cupcake “bun” (complete with sesame seeds), topped with lettuce, tomato, and cheese buttercream frosting and a ruffled toothpick so damn cute it stabbed my little heart. The fries are sugar cookies sprinkled with coarse sugar and cut into long thing parallelograms, i repeat, parallelograms-not rectangles as shape is key, with a pastry cutter.

Ty thought they were the best burgers ever!

Thanks, Bea!!!!

Double Almond Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Who doesn’t love a cookie? Really? I mean what kind of heartless bastard are you if your heart doesn’t just melt at the thought of a decadent cookie?

Some days just call for ‘em. I feel like this may be one.

Oh and these are surprisingly easy.

P.S. this makes 40 plus normal sized cookies. You might want to half this recipe , or just make them big and still eat 3 or 4 at a sitting.

**note,  I used NRG egg replacer to make these, but feel free to try out any method you prefer. Vegan Society offers many great options for egg replacing on their site.


DOUBLE CHOCOLATE ALMOND CHUNK COOKIE

recipe:

2  1/4c flour

1/3c unsweetened cocoa powder

1t baking soda

1/2t salt

3/4c brown sugar

3/4c sucanat or white sugar

1/2c earth balance

1/2c plain unflavored crisco or other shortening

2t vanilla extract

2c (1 bag) vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips  - I use ghirardelli, but always read the bag to make sure they didn’t start adding milkfat

1c sliced almonds

1T NRG egg replacer

1/4c warm water

METHOD:

1. Mix the egg replacer and water in a small bowl or measuring cup. Set aside for about 10 minutes.

2. In a medium size mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

3. In another large mixing bowl, combine sugars, earth balance, and shortening. Beat until creamy (I use an electric hand mixer for this).

4. Continue mixing, adding in the egg replacer first then the vanilla.

5. SLOWLY and gradually add your dry flour mixture to the big bowl, making sure it’s well blended.

6. At this point, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

7. Add almonds into your cookie dough. Mix well. Go ahead and get dirty, best method is to use your hands for this part.

8. Add in your chocolate chips.  Keep using your hands to mix. They’re already covered in dough.

9. Now that your dough is all mixed, you can was (read: lick) your hands and get the cookies ready for baking.  Drop the dough by tablespoon sized balls on an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving about 3/4″ between each one.  Flatten them slightly with your hands until they’re cookie shaped.

10. Bake about 15 minutes. They will seem like they might not be done, but they probably are!

***while your first batch is baking, prepare your second cookie to go in the oven***

Leave on the cookie sheet about 5 minutes to cool, then move to a cooling rack.

I think I want to try these with some peanut butter or coconut in them next time…Or maybe go crazy and do both! We’ll see.

Enjoy with a glass of crunk juice (aka soymilk- “because anytime you say ‘soy juice’ you actually start to gag”) and about 20 of your closest friends.

Home of The Greek Salad King

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Now where I grew up in Brockton, there’s this long established Greek restaurant on the east side called Christo’s, which is the self-proclaimed “Home of the Greek Salad King”.   It’s full of pizza, lamb, and greek salads (and really strong, inexpensive drinks) but one of their most famous dishes is their Greek Lemon Chicken soup. This stuff is bright yellow and smooth like velvet. Each bowl must contain like a half a dozen egg yolks…but I do remember it to be delicious and to this day is one of the prides of the city of Brockton (right behind Rocky Marciano). I thought this was going to be a thing of the past, a distant memory from my pre-vegan (pregan?) days…. until stumbling upon this recipe in Vegan Eats World. I’ll admit I was very very skeptical, but I had to try it and see. Oh my woah, Terry! You hit the nail on the head, my friend.

No-Glovemano (Greek Lemon Soup)

Ain’t Nothin’ But a Chickpea Party

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I’m not going to lie, chickpeas are one of my favorite foods. They’re cute and meaty and have lovely curves. I also believe them to be the most versatile bean on the planet (okay, maybe they’re neck and neck with the soybean..maybe…) and I cook with them all the time.

Recently I was at my friendly Costco Wholesale Club and found a gigantic can of these bad boys for like three bucks! Right- how could I resist? Well, I didn’t think of the perils of buying the largest can of chickpeas known to man at the time, mainly being that I would have to consume the largest can of chickpeas known to man within a week, but once I got it home and opened it up I knew that I was in for some recipe searches…

Luckily I found this chickpea picatta recipe in Appetite For Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Healthy, inexpensive, and bursting with flavor. This is one of my favorite go-to meals, especially since almost everything in it is an on-hand staple. Capers, lemon juice, shallots (red onion works just fine too), all cozied up with my heroine the chickpea. I served this with another one of her recipes from that book Caulipots- a mashed potato and cauliflower combo and placed the whole thing on a bed of arugula. At first I thought it was foreign to put hot food on a bed of greens (I’m a Luddite like that sometimes), but it was a really cool change up that I intend to repeat. I dig when I’m eating with my eyes and my stomach (and still staying within my weight watchers’ points!!)