Wednesday, October 31, 2012


There's a nice article about carrots in today's NY Times.  One of the accompanying recipes is vegan, and the other is easily veganizable.  And I learned some fun carrot facts.  It never occurred to me that carrots have a season, although of course it makes perfect sense when I think about it.  To everything there is a season, and why should carrots be the exception?  I find that organic carrots taste sweeter than non-organic ones, but I have to admit I always buy my carrots at the grocery store.  I haven't seen carrots at our local farmer's market.  Maybe I'll see some tomorrow, as the season is apparently here.

Happy Halloween, with VEGAN CANDY CORN!

As Vegan MoFo draws to a close, we are faced with a perennial Halloween dilemma -- the search for vegan candy corn.  Vegan candy corn is commercially nonexistent, which is so unfair!  There is no good reason for candy corn not to be vegan.  I found some Jelly Belly candy corn (my favorite in pregan days) at the store yesterday, and it contained the following two non-vegan ingredients:  beeswax and confectioner's glaze (for those not in the know, confectioner's glaze is made out of bugs).  Do you seriously mean to tell me it's impossible to make candy corn without those two ingredients?  Seriously?

Anyway, vegan candy corn is impossible to find in stores, so I made some myself.  Pictures after the jump:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Carrot log cabins: there's a learning curve

Inspired by yesterday's video about the adventures of a cupcake among the vegetables, I grabbed my smallest paring knife and decided to make my own carrot Lincoln Logs:

It's harder than I thought it would be.  I was having trouble getting the edges straight, and it was hard to cut deep enough without slicing off the end of the carrot.  Maybe an x-acto knife would work better.  I gave up pretty quickly and we ate the evidence with some hummus.

THIS JUST IN: Vegan Pumpkin Spice Saltwater Taffy!

You heard me.

Today was another hurricane-induced day off for me and the girlfriend.  We were starting to get cabin fever and we needed to pick up some Halloween candy for tomorrow's trick-or-treaters, so we bundled up and trudged through the rain to our local chichi grocery store.  We don't usually shop at this store because it is mostly a lot of overpriced junk food, but we didn't want to drive anywhere and we figured this was the best place within easy walking distance to try to get trick or treating candy.  

We did get some candy for the kids.  But who cares about them?  Look what we got for ourselves:

Vegan.  Saltwater.  Taffy.  From Fralinger's of Atlantic City.  If you're not a saltwater taffy fan, you may not realize what a find this is.  I never eat saltwater taffy any more because it's impossible to find vegan taffy at the Maryland and Delaware seashore.  Atlantic City, where have you been all my life?  And it's pumpkin spice, which is a) seasonal and b) one of my favorite flavors.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hunkering Down

Hurricane Sandy is upon us.  Girlfriend and I are both off work today and tomorrow because of the storm, and when we woke up this morning we decided we'd better do some cooking while we still had power.

The cooking actually started last night, with chickpea curry from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, The Indian Slow Cooker by Anupy Singla.  This is not a vegan book (although Anupy has another book, Vegan Indian Cooking, that is also excellent), but most of the recipes are vegan.  I love these recipes because a) the quantities are huge, and b) most of the recipes involve dumping everything into the slow cooker at once and ignoring it for a long, long time -- 14 hours in the case of the chickpea curry.  I woke up this morning to the smell of delicious curry, and first thing I added my finishing touches.  This curry comes out very soupy, so I thicken it up and turn it into a complete meal by adding cooked rice, a pound of frozen spinach, and a pound of frozen broccoli.

In which a cupcake learns to appreciate vegetables

Check out this fantastic stop-motion animation by Kirsten Lepore. I think those carrot Lincoln Logs may be the best thing I've ever seen. Plus there's a special guest appearance by KALE!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Eat your greens and forget to die

This week's NY Times magazine has an article about a Greek island, Ikaria, with an unusually long-lived population -- a place where people "forget to die."  Lots of good advice in there -- drink wine, don't watch the clock, hang out with your friends -- and the food, while not vegan, is a lot less animal-dependent than food here in the US (the people also don't seem to eat sugar, although they do like the local honey).  The accompanying blog post includes three recipes, all of them easy and vegan.

The article talks about the importance of social support.  When everyone around you is living right, it's a lot easier for you to do the same -- unlike here, where we are surrounded by crap and every trip to the store is like walking through a minefield.  So my take home is this:  if you want to be a healthy vegan, hang out with other healthy vegans!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My (grocery) bags are packed, I'm ready to go.

Recently I wrote about how I meet my protein needs when I travel.   On the last trip I took, I didn't bring much food because a) I was flying, and b) I was going to a civilized place (defined as a place with a Whole Foods).  We went to WF several times on that trip, actually.

Well, tomorrow I'm hitting the road for a professional conference.  I'll be gone for three nights, and I know from experience that the town I'm going to -- Ocean City, Maryland -- is a real vegan food desert.  This is especially true in the off season.  There are two restaurants there where I've had decent vegan meals, but I don't know whether either one will be open midweek.  Add in that I'll be very busy trying to act like a grownup, and I won't have my own transportation, and you'll understand why I'm bringing this:

Not the cat.  The cat is staying home.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Vegan Eats World!

One of the biggest hazards of living in my neighborhood is that there is a huge Barnes and Noble right next door to Trader Joe's.  Trader Joe's is below street level, and the easiest way to walk to and from TJ's is to go through B & N.  So I do a lot of book browsing pre-and post-grocery shopping.

This evening it started to rain just as my girlfriend and I were leaving TJ's.  We had no umbrella, so that left me with no choice but to browse the vegan cookbook section -- and how amazing is it that this corporate bookstore has a vegan cookbook section?  And guess what they had -- first time I've seen it in a store -- Vegan Eats World by Terry Hope Romero! After leafing through I decided I had to have it,even though there are quite a few recipes I won't be able to use (a chapter each on breads, noodles, and desserts -- known to me as heroin, crack, and meth -- plus a lot of recipes with nuts, which I guess are angel dust).  Actually, I probably would have bought it for the spice blend chapter alone -- harissa!  berbere!  preserved lemons! Jamaican curry powder!  niter kibbeh! -- but there are plenty of great-sounding bean, grain, and veggie recipes, plus some really interesting looking stuff with tofu and seitan.  So I'll have lots of new recipes to blog about in the weeks to come.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Summer is Really Over Now

My boss found a few lonely beefsteak tomatoes in her garden, after she thought all the plants had stopped fruiting, and was kind enough to give me one:

Now that's  a tomato!  It was so juicy, with a really rich, complex flavor, sweet and umami.  We ate it for Sunday breakfast with some refried beans.  Later that day we were at a restaurant and I made the mistake of ordering salad.  It included tomato-like objects, which I probably would have thought tasted fine if I hadn't just eaten the ur-tomato.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Healthy Vegan Traveler: Quest for Protein

Like all vegans, I get sick of hearing "Where do you get your protein?"  The correct answer to this question is "From food."  All food has protein in it.  Most of the calories in broccoli are from protein.  If you ate nothing but potatoes, like this guy, you would still get enough protein to survive.

There's "enough to survive," though, and "enough for a specific person to function optimally."  Last winter I consulted a vegan nutritionist.  I don't follow all of her recommendations, but one thing I did learn was that I wasn't eating enough protein.  In order for me to feel good and not get light-headed or overly hungry between meals, I need to consume about 14 grams of protein at each meal.  That's the equivalent of a cup of cooked beans, or a small serving of tofu.  This is not at all a big deal when I'm at home.  When I'm travelling, though, especially away from a major city, getting enough protein -- and enough calories, for that matter -- can be a challenge.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

How do I love my ninja?

My Ninja blender, that is.

Let me count the ways:

It cost 1/5 as much as a Vitamix.
It pulverizes everything.  Everything.
It doesn't leak.
It's easy to clean.  No icky gasket thingy.
It came with a single-serve container, so you can make a reasonably sized smoothie and drink it out of the container.
It also came with a huge-ass container, so you can make smoothies for two, or a huge-ass smoothie for yourself.
It makes pretty drinks like this:

unsweetened almond milk, banana, frozen blueberries, hemp protein powder

 It also makes ugly drinks like the one I'm drinking right now:  unsweetened almond milk, banana, hemp protein powder, flaxseed, romaine lettuce, frozen pineapple.
Instant gratification:  bought it at Bed, Bath, and Bite Me with a coupon.
When you put it on the counter it does.  not.  budge.  There's no way for cats to push it off the counter.
Did I mention it cost 1/5 as much as a Vitamix?  It's entirely possible, of course, that the Vitamix works 5 times as well as the Ninja.  But I really don't need it to.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What the world needs: a vegan food channel

Has anyone seen Vegan Mash-up on PBS? I feel like I am late to the party, having only just heard about this today.  I'm going to have to check my local PBS affiliates -- the web site doesn't seem to have any information about where and when the show is airing.

I must admit that one of my guilty pleasures is the Food Network, but the meatfulness really gets on my nerves.  If it's really gross I have to turn it off, but even when it isn't overtly disgusting, it's a lot of "Well, I would never make that . . . or that . . . or that . . ."  Seeing a vegan baker on Cupcake Wars every once in a while is no substitute for a real vegan cooking show.   Or how about a vegan version of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives?  With someone less annoying than Guy Fieri (it shouldn't be hard to find someone less annoying than Guy Fieri, right?).  Or a vegan version of Unwrapped?  This week, we visit the Turtle Island factory and watch Tofurky being made!  Next week, Dandies marshmallows!  That would be awesome.  I love factory tours.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sweet Corn Bisque with Poblanos

A few days ago I showed off my haul of poblanos from the farmer's market, and said I was thinking of cream of poblano soup.  I wandered around the web looking at recipes (poblano vichyssoise, anyone?), briefly considered just adding some roasted poblanos to the cheezy potato soup from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook,  and finally decided to veganize a recipe from a book I found at the library, Southwest Flavors:  Santa Fe School of Cooking, that I checked out as part of my ongoing love affair with Mexican and New Mexican cuisine.

This is a beautiful book, with lots of pictures, and good information about green chile and other traditional New Mexican ingredients, but it is not a vegan-friendly book.  Almost all the entrees are meat-based, and the few that aren't are heavily dependent on cheese. I marked just a few recipes that were vegan or sounded veganizable (the only actual vegan recipes are for salad and things like salsa), this sweet corn bisque being one of them:

1 T oil (I used less)
1 cup diced yellow onion
3/4 cup diced celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup New Mexico green chile, hot or medium, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped (I substituted roasted poblanos here)
4 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 baking potatoes, peeled and diced
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I actually used water and some of this Chick'n Style Seasoning powder, because I had some in the pantry and was convinced nooch would be good in this soup, even though the original recipe didn't call for cheese)
1 cup heavy cream Trader Joe's soy creamer (I actually ended up using most of a pint container)
Salt (I think I left this out because there's salt in the chick'n powder)

Saute onion, celery, and garlic.  Add everything  else except the soy creamer and simmer until the potatoes are cooked.  Puree the soup with your ever-loving immersion blender.  Stir in the soy creamer.  Put some soup in a nicely contrasting bowl.

Verdict:  rich and delicious but HOT HOT HOT HOT HOT!  I thought a cup of chile sounded like a lot, and I made the mistake of trusting the recipe instead of my instincts.  I barely made it through my bowl with the help of several corn tortillas; my girlfriend couldn't finish hers.  I decided I had to try to fix the soup, so I cooked 2 more big potatoes and almost 2 pounds of frozen corn in some more chick'n broth, then added it to the original soup and pureed again.  So now we have a huge container of soup, which  is still spicy but is much less of a challenge to eat.

So the moral of the story is, try this soup, but maybe start with 1/4 cup of peppers and increase the amount from there if it isn't spicy enough for your liking.

The kitten thought the soup tasted great when it was still way too spicy for us.  He is so weird.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Acorn Squash and Apple Soup

We don't have a garden.  We live in an apartment, and our cats are such fearsome predators we can't even have houseplants.   We know people who have gardens, though, and sometimes they share.

Most of the time, receiving a gift of fresh produce from someone who gardens is unmitigated wonderfulness. Once in a while, though, you think "This is so great.  Now what am I going to do with it?" That's how I responded when I received this acorn squash:

Cat:  "This squash is so great . . . ." 
". . . now what are we going to do with it?"

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Vegan Yogurt Rant

This afternoon I was poking around in the refrigerator when I spotted a little container of Whole Soy and Co. plain yogurt that I bought about a month ago, with a specific Indian chick pea recipe in mind.  I pulled it out and discovered that the sell by date was yesterday.

Shit!  Better make those chick peas now!  Get the pinto beans out of the slow cooker!  Run across the street to get more chick peas!  Never mind that I just cooked a metric fuckton of chick peas for other dishes!  Must!  Use!  Yogurt!

I reacted this way because plain vegan yogurt can be ridiculously hard to find.  I went to three different stores in search of this little cup, and the store where I finally found it is not on my regular shopping route.  If I miss my window with this yogurt, it will be a while before I get out there again.

Then I thought, wait a minute.  What if this yogurt sucks?  What if it disappoints you, like so many other vegan yogurts?  Before you go nuts, taste it.  So I stuck my finger in and tasted it.  It tastes . . . okay, but nothing like the plain yogurt I remember from pregan days.  It has no tartness at all.  It's more like vanilla pudding than anything.  So I stuck it back in the refrigerator and went about my pinto beany business.  I'll be throwing the yogurt in a smoothie, either later today or for breakfast tomorrow morning.

I'd had my suspicions about this yogurt.  A 6 ounce container has 13g of sugar, which just sounds insane.  But it was the only plain yogurt I could find in that size, and the recipe only calls for a quarter cup.  At the health food store across the street I can get Wildwood soy yogurt, which sounds more promising -- only 3g of sugar per serving, and no actual "sugar" in the ingredients -- but it only comes in quart containers, and every time I've seen it the date has been a week or less away.  And what if it sucks?   I've been burned by soy yogurt in the past -- there was that one batch of onion dip I don't even want to think about (I learned my lesson and use silken tofu for that sort of thing now).

Plain yogurt is the one dairy food for which I have not found an acceptable vegan substitute.   I used to love plain yogurt and ate it with all kinds of savory dishes, usually to cool down something spicy. Now I just do without it.  I occasionally buy sweet flavors of vegan yogurt, usually because I'm taking antibiotics or have a sore throat and want something that will be smooth going down, but never plain.  Usually I do just fine without yogurt in my life, but this particular chick pea recipe spoke to me, and for some reason I didn't want to go the silken tofu and lemon juice route again.

Have you found a vegan yogurt that satisfies?  If you have, please share it in the comments.

Friday, October 5, 2012

My Farmer's Market Haul

I am very fortunate in that my house, my office, and the farmer's market are each about a five minute walk from the others.  Every Thursday from June through November, I try to make it to the farmer's market at lunch time.  I haul my fruits and veggies home, eat lunch, and go back to work.  It's a great setup.

Here's what I bought yesterday:

Kitten included for scale.  Actually, kitten included because there was no way he wasn't going to be included.
 That savoy cabbage weighs almost 7 pounds!  That's a lot of cruciferous goodness for just $3.00.  I don't know what I'm making with it yet -- probably several different things.  It's a good thing cabbage keeps well.

All these poblanos for $5.00!

Looks like I'll be roasting poblanos again this weekend.  There are probably more refried beans in my future, or I may get decadent and make a cream of poblano soup.  Or both.

Empire, Liberty, Nittany -- from left to right.
 Finally, I bought about 9 pounds of apples.  Empire is my favorite eating apple.  I asked the apple man if he would be selling any Rome apples this fall, and he said most of those go for juice, but that if I like Rome I should try Liberty.  So I bought six big Liberty apples for baking.  At first I was thinking dessert, but then it occurred to me that I could stuff them with something savory and have them be an entree.  I found a bunch of meatful recipes that involve stuffing apples with sausage, so I'm thinking I'll be making some sausage crumbles this weekend, either with frozen tofu or with TSP.  Still not sure what I'll be doing with the Nittany apples.  In the past I've baked them.  Mostly I just thought they were pretty.

These ingredients will be appearing in blog posts for the next week or so.  I also have a big bag of potatoes from a previous week's market, so expect some potato dishes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Experimental Chili

The first thing I actually made with the roasted poblanos was refried beans, but the first thing I thought of making was chili.  After some googling, I settled on a recipe from the Irreverent Vegan as a starting point, and followed Mark's instructions for roasting the poblanos, as well.

I said starting point, right?  I referred to Mark's recipe a few times, but basically did my own thing.  I post the result here not because it was so amazing (it's perfectly fine chili, but not necessarily something I would make again), but to show how my twisted thought processes work when I'm playing with a recipe.

Poblano Refried Beans

I love refried beans.  Canned or from scratch, at home or in a restaurant, to me they are the ultimate comfort food.  Traditionally, refried beans are cooked pinto beans that are fried in lard and mashed ("refrito" actually means "well-fried," not "re-fried").  Of course I don't cook with lard.  Ew.  I actually haven't seen any canned refried beans made with lard, either.  They're either made with vegetable oil, or they're fat free, which would mean they aren't fried at all.  But they still taste great.

I usually avoid cooking with oil, unless I am really convinced the recipe will suffer without it.  Since I like the fat free canned refried beans just fine, I don't use oil when I make refried beans from scratch.  I use my own recipe, which I adapted from the one here.  And this week, I've been making an exciting variation with roasted poblano peppers.

Basic Slow Cooker "Refried" Beans

Pinto beans, as many as you want to cook (I love refried beans, so I cook anywhere from 2 to 4 cups of dry beans at a time).  No need to presoak.
Yellow onion, chopped
Whole garlic cloves, peeled and trimmed

Exact amounts are not critical here.  For this batch, I used 2 cups of dry beans, one big yellow onion, and five or six cloves of garlic.

I have a cooker with 3 different sized crocks.  Fun!

Put the beans, onions, and garlic in your slow cooker crock.  Add water to cover by at least two inches.  Cook on High until they are really soft.  Anywhere from 8 to 12 hours should be fine.  I like to set up the slow cooker after dinner, and then let the beany, oniony, garlicky aroma wake me up the next morning.

The next day, turn off the cooker and drain the beans, reserving the thick, rich liquid.  Now it's time to mash the beans.  I use my immersion blender for this, but you could just use a potato masher.  After all that slow cooking, the beans will be very soft.

Now season to your liking.  I thought a tablespoon of salt would be about right, but it turned out to be too much.  Desperate to salvage all those over-salted beans, I threw in some black beans I had in the refrigerator, and mashed them up.  Turns out I really like that combination, and will probably be using it from now on.  The black beans are less mushy than the pintos, and stay more intact for a nice color and texture contrast.

You could stop right there and have perfectly good beans.  But I took it a step further, and mixed in a couple tablespoons of chopped poblano peppers.

 Here's a closeup of some beany goodness.  You can see the little flecks of black beans and poblanos.

Now it's time to serve the beans.  You could do all sorts of yummy things at this point -- make tacos, tostadas, Mexican lasagna . . . . but lately I've just been eating them plain, with some  kale and corn. I really like the contrast of textures and the bitter, sweet, creamy party in my mouth.

Mmm, mmm, good!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How to Roast Poblano Peppers and Live to Tell About It

Back in my pregan days, my favorite thing to order at a Mexican restaurant was chile rellenos.  Cheezy, deep-fried goodness, mmmm.  When I saw some poblano peppers at the farmer's market the other week, I impulsively bought them, figuring someone must have come up with a veganized recipe for chile rellenos by now.  I was right.  Google "vegan chile rellenos" and you will come up with many recipe options.  What I hadn't counted on, though, was that veganized chile rellenos are approximately as bad for you as the cow variety.  They're still deep-fried, after all, and while delicious, Daiya cheese is not exactly health food.  I needed to come up with something else to do with the poblanos.

Just about every recipe that doesn't call for stuffing poblanos says to roast them (actually, several recipes call for roasting and then stuffing, which sounds like a frustrating mess when I consider how soft and juicy the peppers get when roasted).  I decided to roast the peppers first and ask questions later.  It occurred to me that I might even be able to use roasted poblanos in place of New Mexico green chile.  Heresy, I know, but I thought that with my unsophisticated chile-eating palate it just might work.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Why Be Vegan -- Part 2

I started my last post by saying I was going to talk about all the reasons to be vegan.  Then I got going about my friend Opal the turkey, and ended up with a huge-ass post that didn't cover anything other than animal rights and animal welfare.  Lots of vegans, myself included, would say we don't need another reason to go vegan.  Animal agriculture is cruel, and animals are not ours to use.  Period.  But the fact is, there are other good reasons to follow  a vegan diet even if you couldn't care less about animals (but if that's you, why are you here?), and I want to talk about a biggie:  your health.

Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit

It's the first day of October!  Which means it's the first day of Vegan MoFo!  And the first day of Vegetarian Awareness Month!  Which means it's World Vegetarian Day!

I figured this would be a good time to talk about why I am vegan and why all of y'all should be vegan.  If you're already happily vegan, yay you!  Tune in tomorrow, when I will have an image-heavy post about how to roast poblano peppers, om nom nom.  If you aren't vegan (yet), are trying to go vegan, or have recently gone vegan and need to be reminded why it is worth giving up cheese, read on.  Or read on if you like pictures of cute animals.  They are after the jump.