Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sausage Fest: How Many Sexual Innuendos Can I Fit in One Post

OK so maybe my life is about the farthest thing from a sausage fest, in the sense that I can't seem to keep  a man around long enough to make it to dessert.  On the other hand, if platonic male friends count, then call me Jodi Maroni and welcome to my sausage kingdom. I suppose that this is all material I should be saving for the book I'm working on. It's going to be a collection of recipes and the bad date stories that accompany them. Currently up for inclusion: bad date stir fry, let's just be friends lasagna, and breakup pancakes. Don't worry boys, all the names and faces will be changed to protect the innocent.
I'm a big fan of Tofurkey's Tomato Basil Sausage, and I am trying to be better about buying local produce. The Venice Whole Foods is really good about having a separate "locally grown" produce section. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the produce in that section was cheaper than it would regularly be, and it was very refreshing to go into a Whole Foods and not feel like I was being asked to drop trou and bend over. So, even though I was originally looking for green bell peppers, I ended up with a lovely (and affordable) carton of sweet yellow and red peppers. This recipe is for one, but could easily be stretched into two meals by addition of some pasta or vegan sandwich rolls.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Whole Foods Bulk Section

The Venice Whole Foods is a carnival of wonder and magic, or at least I like to think so. They have a wine-tasting bar, a salad bar with tons of vegan options, vegan pizza, vegan chocolate truffles, grind-your-own coffee, cool cosmetics, daiya cheese, and more. Sometimes, I will invent something that I "need" from the store just to have an excuse to wander the aisles. Currently, my favorite part of my favorite grocery store is the bulk foods section. There are containers upon containers of dried fruits, nuts, flour, and grains. I love being able to sample a little or something, or to get just what I need for a recipe. It's much cheaper when cooking for one, and less food goes to waste. I hate having to throw out food because it spoiled while waiting for me to cook with it.
The flour selection in the bulk foods aisle is a baker's wet dream. I can buy just enough of a new flour for a recipe and get to experiment without committing to an entire bag of something that might not work out. Also, since I transfer my dry goods into jars as soon as I get them home anyway, I'm saving money, trees, and landfill space by buying these things in a little plastic bag instead of some elaborate packaging. Whole Foods is nice enough to provide twist-tie labels and pens, and I love any excuse to use my Catholic-school handwriting. So far I have tried whole wheat pastry flour and white spelt flour. I'm looking forward to trying the blue corn flour and making blue corn pancakes, or maybe even my own tortillas. I also love being able to buy just enough nuts for a recipe, like when I made my almond crumble for blueberry muffins. I don't really eat nuts on their own, so it's good to just get what I need right at that moment.
There is one more really amazing thing about the bulk foods aisle, and that is the fact that you can press your own peanut butter! Yes, that's right, 100% natural peanut butter that you grind yourself. The ingredient list is simple: peanuts, and it's really fresh and delicious. I personally went for the chocolate peanut butter machine, and enjoyed it spread on rice cakes for a week.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mama Mia! Garlic Knots!

Apologies for being so bad about posting lately. Work has been ridiculous and between there and the gym, I haven't had a spare moment to write anything lately. I've been super low on energy and not really prioritizing my cooking or blogging as much as I wish I could. Rest assured, I've still been eating very healthy and very vegan. I even tried out a couple of new recipes which I was very pleased with. I'll be posting them here over the next couple of days so that you too can try them out.

One of my most favorite places in the world is C&O's Trattoria in Venice Beach. Not only do they serve the most amazing, gigantic plates of pasta I've ever seen, but they have a very great hook as well. Three words. Unlimited garlic knots. You just sit down and order an entree, and the garlic knot guy will come to your table time and time again, filling your plate with delicious garlic knots that are warm out of the oven. I'm pretty sure that their garlic knots are vegan, because most pizza dough usually is, but I really should call to do some investigating. If the opportunity arises to visit there in the next 40 days, I will have to call them and find out if their delicious garlic-y goodness fits in line with my new lifestyle choices. If they tell me that they aren't vegan, however, it might be a real deal-breaker. It's debatable whether it would ruin my relationship with veganism or my relationship with C&O's.

Once upon a time, I was a Girl Scout. Our motto was to always be prepared. Thus, if C&O's doesn't come through for me, I have an excellent backup plan. That backup plan is my very delicious, previously top-secret recipe for garlic knots. It's super easy to make, but they always seem to really impress people. When I made a tray on New Years Eve, they were a big hit. Luckily, they're one of those things that are just naturally vegan. You could, I suppose, screw everything up by adding parmesan or romano cheese. If you really feel like you need that extra garnish, you should go ahead and pick up some vegan parmesan from your local Whole Foods. It's just as good.

Without further adieu, here is a totally simple, totally awesome garlic knot recipe. You could serve these as an accompaniment to a pasta dish, as an appetizer, or as part of a cocktail party spread. If you were feeling particularly lazy, you could probably put these out with some tomato sauce for dipping and call it a meal.

Garlic Knots
1 package vegan pizza dough (I just buy it in the bag from Trader Joe's, but you could make it as well)
6! cloves of garlic
1/2  c. earth balance
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 c. fresh basil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Turn your pizza dough onto a floured surface. Knead it a few times before rolling it out to a rectangle about 1/4" thick and 5" long.
Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into strips that are about 1" wide.
Tie each individual strip into a knot and place on a nonstick baking sheet.
Brush tops with 1 tbsp. olive oil.
Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until tops of the knots are a golden brown.
While these are done cooking, sauté minced garlic in 1 tbsp. olive oil until it starts to turn golden.
Add the earth balance to the sauce pan and stir until completely melted.
Transfer the still-warm garlic knots to a bowl and toss with the garlic-butter mixture.
Chop the fresh basil and sprinkle over your garlic knots with a pinch of salt (kosher is best).

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bad Date, Good Stir Fry

So once guys find out that you know how to cook, you have basically committed to making them dinner at least once. My favorite kinds of guys are the ones who know a thing or two about cooking themselves. Sure, it adds to the pressure to create something delicious, but it also means that I'll have a skilled extra hand in the kitchen. A few weeks ago, I attempted a cooking date with a certain someone, and it did not end well. Sometimes there are just nights where things don't line up, and it was one of those nights. I was already stressed out when the date started. Let's just say that the night didn't end well and leave it at that. On the bright side, I did get to try out a great recipe for Peanut Tofu Stir Fry. However, it will always be associated with a bad date, so I will probably not be making it again any time soon.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Coconut Rice

Some of my friends have a huge problem with coconut, and some of my friends are crazy. Some of my friends fall into the venn diagram space where they are both crazy and have an issue with coconut. While I am not one to imply that correlation suggests causation, it makes me wonder sometimes. I am obsessed with coconut. Even though it's horrible for the environment, I love the smell of banana boat suntan lotion. It reminds me of a Vegas pool in the summertime. I know that coconuts are full of fat, so I try to limit them in my diet as I am trying to lose another 10 pounds. However, I had some flaked coconut left over from the grrl scout cookie experiment, and I was trying to come up with a good way to use both that and the can of coconut milk that has been camped out in my pantry for what seems like months. I decided that if you can use vegetable broth to flavor rice, there's no reason why you can't use coconut milk as well. For this recipe, I use a blend of white and brown rice, so that you get the health benefits of the brown rice combined with some of the lighter texture of the white. I thought about calling it "Doesn't Matter if You're Brown or White", because I just saw Captain Eo at Disneyland. However, we'll just stick with Vegan Coconut Rice, because I am writing this much too early on a Saturday morning for such puns and games.

Pesto, Picnics, Pasta Salad, and Populism

OK so maybe I was kidding about the third one, but I did go on a picnic and I did make a pesto pasta salad. Last Sunday I went on the most gorgeous hiking trip with my new friends in the Greater LA Veggie Hikers group. We drove out to the California poppy fields and then did an amazing hike of Devil's Chair. Not only was the scenery lovely, but the change in elevation really got my blood pumping. Yes, we saw lots of great bits of nature, but the best part of the entire day had to have been the vegetarian potluck. There were so many delicious vegan dishes, and it was the first time in months that I can remember having so many different options on a table. I ate a ton of different pastas and salads and some great dessert. It sure was a good thing that we were able to burn it all off in the afternoon. For my contribution to the event, I brought a pesto pasta salad with brown rice pasta. It was pretty good, but definitely not the most delicious thing on the table. This is a dish that is great hot but is also good cold. It's a great take-along dish for any potluck or picnic, or sometimes just to keep in the fridge when you know there are going to be nights when you don't even have time to heat up dinner.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Quinoa Rice Pudding

Last week I decided to screw around experiment with quinoa. I cooked up a big batch to use as a side dish for my chana masala, but it expanded more than I thought it would, and I was left with a whole bowl left over. I industriously put it in the fridge and vowed to figure out what to do with it later. As it turns out, later came the next morning. It was unnaturally cold for Los Angeles, although I think my vintage apartment building might have a bit of a draft problem. So, I turned on my extremely dangerous gas heater and set about making something warm and comforting for breakfast.
My inspiration was this youtube video from Bethany Frankel, star of The Real Housewives of NYC and an organic chef (or something). Let's take a moment to rant about Bethany. Her method of naturally skinny dieting basically focuses on eating 2-3 bites of something and then pawning it off on someone else. Originally this method, like Bethany herself, annoyed the hell out of me. But as I cook more and more for this blog, I can empathize with her at least a little bit. Plus, her idea of using leftover brown rice was my inspiration. The biggest difference in mine is that I cooked mine on the stove, because I do not own a microwave. I don't believe that anyone should be eating anything that can only be cooked in a microwave. Sure, I use it at work to heat up leftovers, but at home I cook only on the stove. If I need to reheat something, it's going to get re-heated the same way it got cooked in the first place. That's it for me on my soapbox, now on to the breakfast pudding!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tofu Scramble

This morning I woke up and had an intense craving for tofu scramble. I have done some recipe research on it  in the past, but never gotten around to making it. Usually I want something sweet for breakfast: pancakes, french toast, or even just an english muffin with peanut butter, but every once in a blue moon I want something salty and with a little heat.
I luckily had all the ingredients on hand for my tofu scramble, except for onions. Somehow I never seem to have onions in the house when I need them, and when I do have them in the house, they go bad because I don't use them. Luckily it was a Saturday morning and the farmers market was in full swing across the street. I threw on my sneakers and my members only jacket and "rolled out" as I like to call it when I leave the house looking like an abonimable snowman in the morning. I am NOT a pretty sight to wake up to in the morning, in case you were wondering. I got to pay a visit to my favorite farmer, a Brit who sells Spanish Onions, which are smaller than regular onions and thus the perfect size for my table-for-one lifestyle. I came home and put together my scramble. I'll be honest, it was a little off. I think that the nutritional yeast plus the daiya just gave it too strong of a flavor, so I adjusted the measurements before posting it below. That's right, readers, I do all of the mis-adventuring so that you don't have to.

Friday, April 9, 2010

New Order

I know that you know this by now, but I really do love vegan pancakes. At this point, any variation on my classic pancake recipe is merely gratuitous, but I'm just finding so many different ways to make them.  I love experimenting in my kitchen. Sometimes it works out really well for me, and sometimes it's a bit of a disaster. I had never seen a recipe for blue corn pancakes before, but I did see them mentioned in the Skinny Bitch meal plan in the back of the book. So I decided, hey, this must be something that vegans eat. When I saw the blue corn flour in the Whole Foods bulk section, I realized that I had an opportunity to give them a try without necessarily committing to an entire pound of flour. It was like a test drive, or one of those boys who just wants to be friends in the beginning. I had a low stakes way of trying my hand at blue corn pancakes. I realize that the picture may make these little guys look unappetizing, but that's either a function of my very poor photography or just the fact that they are slightly blue. Either way, I still need to get a better camera than the one on my i-phone. I made these pancakes, very appropriately, one Monday morning. Thus, the punny name.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Roasted Tomato Sauce

I had a bunch of grape tomatoes and basil left over from pasta salad at the beginning of the grocery week, and felt like I had to use them in some meaningful way. I had also recently been reading about the different "types" of tomato sauce. You can apparently do a slow-cooking sauce (this is the one I usually go with), and everything gets really rich and caramelized. Another option is to do a sauce that cooks for a few hours, and the third is to do a really fresh sauce that only gets cooked for a matter of minutes. Since I was dealing with grape tomatoes, I felt like the best thing to do would be to stay true to their nature and go with a very bright sauce. Whoever posted the anonymous comment about aluminum cans leaching lycopene from tomatoes, this sauce is for you. It uses fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and a bit of garlic. It only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish, but pre-roasting the tomatoes keeps it from tasting too "raw". I know a bunch of people who are into the whole raw vegan thing, but this girl likes her food to be pretty cooked. Sure, I love a good salad or crunchy raw vegetables. I even had a raw brownie that I was into once, but when it comes to something like my tomato sauce, I like it to have that kick that only comes with being heated above 105 degrees.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Getting Saucy

I have a very interesting, unique personality. Sometimes, I'm in a great mood and nice to everyone around me. I can light up the world with my smile, and I really am a nice girl. Sometimes, I'm down right sardonic. The point here is that sometimes I'm a little sweet and sometimes I'm a little sour. It makes sense that one of my favorite dishes before "the change" was sweet and sour shrimp. There's this great Chinese food restaurant on Santa Monica Blvd called Jin Jiang. It looks like something straight out of Temple of Doom. At least I think it was Temple of Doom that started out in some 80's-tastic chinese night club. Am I right here?
Oh yea, so this is a food blog. Point is, sweet and sour sauce is easily made vegan. However, you need to decide what to pour it over. I've been meaning to try it with vegetables, but I really love it over tofu. I've been eating a bit of tofu lately (and balancing it out by using rice-milk instead of soy). This dish is best served over steamed rice with a side of lightly steamed vegetables. I like to go with snap peas, mushrooms, and broccoli, but really you should do what you feel.

Simply Salad

I don't think that any culinary repertoire is ever complete without one good salad recipe. Salad is very ubiquitous in a vegan diet. A double helping can serve as a light lunch, or you can pair it with some vegan soup. Whenever I cook dinner for someone, I like to start out with a salad. It's simple to make ahead of time, so if I'm still working in the kitchen when they arrive, they don't have to just stare at me ravenously. Sometimes I'll even have a small salad in the middle of the afternoon to tide me over until dinner time. This is a simple recipe with a sweet home-made balsamic vinaigrette. 

Simple Spinach Salad
  • 1/2 a bag baby spinach
  • 1/4 c. dried cranberries (I like the orange-flavored ones)
  • handful of almonds
  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp agave nectar
  • dash of garlic powder
  • fresh ground black pepper

  1. Whisk together the vinegar, agave, garlic, and black pepper.
  2. Throw your spinach in a large bowl. 
  3. Pour the dressing over the spinach and toss a few times to coat. 
  4. Sprinkle cranberries and almonds on top and serve to everyone's sheer amazement. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Black Bean Burgers

Every vegan loves a good veggie burger, right? Wrong! Most veggie burgers have eggs or cheese hidden in them and are not, in fact, vegan. Most vegan burgers are soy patties made from imitation meat. So what do you do when all you want is to sink your teeth into a delicious veggie burger, but still want to maintain the purity of your temple? Simple, you take matters into your own hands. I love black beans and I love veggie burgers, so it made a lot of sense to combine the two into an absolutely delicious fiber-rich dinner. I served my veggie burgers with daiya cheese, sauteed mushrooms, and lettuce on an english muffin. You could also just serve them over some brown rice or quinoa.
A quick note: Check your breadcrumbs! I used panko because they are the most reliably vegan.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Avast Ye' Mateys

Right now I'm sitting at Urban cafe on Lincoln, and the Dawson's creek theme song is playing in the background. It's one of my favorite writing spots, and not just because of the cool lighting and easy availability of laptop plugs. They have my favorite tea in the world: Pirate's Chai. Pirate's Chai is a green matcha latte. It's free of all white sugar, oil, dairy, and gluten. It should be served hot with soy milk, but I know from experience that it's also great over ice or even in a milk shake. I know this because I take credit for putting Pirate's Chai on the map. Back in the day, I went to USC and worked at Ground Zero, a student-run coffee house and performance cafe with a not-so-fortunate name. One day we were street-teaming and this crazy man came up to us and told us we had to try his tea.

We weren't about to drink it right then and there, but Robert (or the chai guy as he became known) came back during the week for us to try some of his crazy, weird, health-food drink. It was absolutely delicious. There was a solid month when I had Pirate's Chai every day for breakfast. So, you can only imagine how delighted I was when I happened upon it at Novel. I know for a fact that their Main St. location also carries it, but I cannot verify the others. What I can tell you is that this stuff is delicious.You can order Pirate's Chai off of their website:

I guess that I have to post some sort of recipe, so here is our old recipe for a pirate's chai milkshake, with some vegan variations.

Pirate's Chai Shake
8 oz unsweetened soymilk
3 large scoops vanilla soy cream
1 scoop of Pirate's Chai powder
Blend all the ingredients together at high speed until smooth, adding more ice cream if necessary.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Vegan Easter

For vegans, some holidays can be a challenge. On the one hand, you want to savor the tastes of the season,  but you still want to maintain your commitment to cruelty-free living. For me, easter wouldn't be the same without a basket of chocolate on easter morning, but I was not about to go out and buy snickers eggs, milk chocolate peanut butter cups, and marshmallow peeps. Instead, I spent last weekend doing something that I have always loved: making candy. I boxed up some of these treats and distributed them to friends, both vegan and non, and saved some for myself. I've dutifully kept said candy stored in the freezer so that I would be able to enjoy a basket on easter morning.
The chocolate eggs pictured are just dark chocolate chips melted with a tiny bit of earth balance and then poured into candy molds. I also made delicious haystacks, peanut butter truffles, and vegan cream cheese mints. Everything came out really nicely. I found the cream cheese mint recipe here, and substituted tofutti vegan cream cheese instead. The peanut butter truffles and haystacks, however, were all my doing. They came out great, and I am pleased to be able to share both recipes after the jump.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Eggplant Parm

Do you notice anything different about today's post as opposed to every post I've put up here so far? That's right, somebody finally got a real camera to take pictures of food. Yesterday a friend surprised me with a digital camera for my birthday (thanks again), and my readers (of which he is one) will no longer have to suffer through the poorly pixelated i-phone shots that I'm sure were starting to drive everyone crazy. Look at how crisp and vibrant this picture is. My food actually looks edible now, which I assume is a win for a food blog. I took the new camera out on a shakedown cruise this afternoon, when I threw together a quick tomato sauce and heated up some of the most delicious eggplant parm I've ever tasted. I will save the sauce recipe for another post, because it's fun for me to imagine people sitting at home dying of anticipation. I have a rich and active imagination.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Winningest Cupcake Recipe.....and Ramblings

As of 1 minute ago, I am 25 years old.  I've always felt like something special was going to happen on my 25th birthday, that I would get some sort of air of legitimacy and suddenly be taken much more seriously. Now, I don't think this is the case. However, I do think that I've grown a lot as a person in the past year. I'm not the same girl I was 365 days ago. Veganism has been good to my body (52 pounds as of this morning!), but it's also been good for my soul. Tomorrow I am going to celebrate with a pre-dawn bike ride up to Will Rogers. A year ago, I could barely make it the mile and a half to work without getting completely winded. I'm going to come home to my apartment and make breakfast. A year ago, I would have had to come home to my then ex-boyfriend, who I was still living with despite being broken up for 9 months. Tomorrow I'll bring fat-free vegan cupcakes in to work. Last year, I believe I ate an entire full-fat Red Velvet cake over the course of 4 days. Tomorrow night, I will gather with friends for a few drinks. Last year, I don't even remember what I did because I didn't feel like I had anything to celebrate. After work today, I drove down to Santa Monica. I walked a bit and then took out my yoga mat for a few vinyassas overlooking the sunset. I can honestly say that I felt alive. In spite of myself and all of the issues and stresses I'm still working through, I felt this wave of contentment wash over me and I realized that I have a good life. Yes, it has its ups and downs, and it had an arguably rough patch from adolescence through college, but I feel like I've maybe overcome all of that. Not mentally or emotionally, but at least on the surface. I have a good job, a great circle of friends, a home (albeit a small, rented one). I've built out a real support system for myself here in LA, and I'm proud of that.
Thanks to my uncle Jimmy for finding these baby pictures of me and sending them. Look at how young and terrified my parents look.