December 1, 2011

Recipe - Vegan Chunky Monkey and Thanksgiving Recap

Hidee-ho! Hope everyone had wonderful Thanksgiving celebrations this year! It was my second year celebrating Thanksgiving as a vegan, but my first one cooking. Last year we went to Connecticut to spend the day with Johnny's brother and his family, so I picked up a few things from Whole Foods. While I am eternally grateful for the convenience and selection that Whole Foods offers, this year I wanted to try my hand at veganizing some of the classics. It is so much cheaper and, generally, tastier to make stuff on your own, don't you agree?

On Tuesday, I began by cooking the cranberry sauce as I knew it would keep well and it was the only component of the meal that was meant to be served cold. I used this recipe from Sunset Magazine as I remembered my sister making a cranberry sauce with Earl Grey tea in years past that I loved. This called for some exotic spices like cardamom pods, star anise, and whole cinnamon sticks so I made my way to Kalustyan's and managed to buy all three for under $10. Man, I love that place! I simmered the spices and tea bags in a water and sugar mixture, then cooked the cranberries in the liquid until they all burst and cooked into a thickened sauce. I was super pleased with the results of that one, it was a positively delicious addition to the meal! I also made up a batch of hummus on Tuesday for an appetizer - we all know how much better hummus tastes after it sits in the fridge for a few days anyway.

Wednesday night I tackled dessert - the Maple Pecan Pie from the new book "Vegan Pie in the Sky" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Those ladies have stolen my heart when it comes to vegan baked goods and vegan food in general. Their recipes are so thoroughly tested and well-written that I never have to worry about yielding a less-than-tasty result. The on-line reviews of this pie recipe were split: some had great success and others had a bit of trouble. I, too, ran into some issues when I let my caramel cook a bit too long. It completely hardened and crumbled, so I blended it up in the food processor and hoped for the best. Luckily, it all worked out and it was a delicious pie! Johnny said it was a bit too sweet for his tastes, but I thought it was just right. (Though expensive to make... we paid $8 for the pecans and it used most of my $7 bottle of maple syrup. Yikes!)

I wanted to have as little cooking to do on Thursday as possible. We spent the morning making our way to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, only to find that we'd missed all but the last two balloons and Santa. EPIC FAIL. Better luck next year. When we got home, I got to work making mashed potatoes (I baked the potatoes, scooped out the innards, and mashed with plenty of soy milk, vegan margarine, and salt and pepper) and sweet potato casserole (I also baked the sweet potatoes, scooped out the innards and mashed with a bit of maple syrup, a couple tablespoons of margarine, some cinnamon and allspice and about a 1/2 cup of toasted walnuts, then I baked it with some vegan Dandies marshmallows on top. YUM!). Johnny made his famous stuffing using margarine, veggie broth, stuffing mix and lots of chopped apples, celery and onions. Then I just had to heat up the rolls and the vegan mushroom gravy. Our guests brought the BEST ROASTED VEGGIES I'VE EVER HAD that included butternut squash, cauliflower, and turnips. Monica says the secret is to roast them at very low heat for a long time, so I'll be utilizing that method in the future.

Everything came out so wonderfully and I had a plate full of vegan goodness upon which to gorge myself. And thanks to leftovers, I continued to gorge myself through the entire weekend! I was so busy trying to keep everything hot that I didn't really snap any good pics though. Bummer. We also saw the new Muppets movie that night and I must say, it was fantastic. A theater full of adults weeping at the sight of a frog puppet? Yes, please. 

In this brief hiatus between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I'm trying to get back to eating a bit healthier so as not to send my system into complete meltdown. I bought a gigantic bunch of bananas at the grocery store while shopping for Thanksgiving and they started to get a bit brown. I knew they would be perfect in a baked good like banana bread. But instead, I chose to freeze them and make banana soft serve! This stuff seems to be all the craze these days and I know why: it's so easy to make and it tastes divine. You can mix-in anything your little heart desires, but when I think of banana ice cream, I automatically think "Chunky Monkey". By far my favorite Ben & Jerry's flavor, it combines banana ice cream with dark chocolate chunks and walnuts. This version gives you all those flavors, but with about 1/10th the fat and calories. Big time WIN!

Johnny ate a bowl of this ice cream, licked the bowl clean, then returned to the freezer to eat the rest. I was so happy he liked it so much! A much healthier way to satisfy an indulgent sweet-tooth. Have you ever made banana soft serve? What are your favorite mix-ins?

Vegan Chunky Monkey

5 frozen bananas
1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips or dark chocolate chunks
1/4 cup raw, unsalted walnut pieces

Break up the bananas a bit and add to a food processor. Begin blending, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. You will have to blend for awhile, 5 minutes or so, but don't overblend as it will start to melt the ice cream. Once everything is smoothe, transfer to a bowl (a chilled bowl would be great here) and stir in the chocolate and walnuts. You can either place this back into the freezer to harden it up a bit, or serve right away. Sprinkle a few extra chocolate chips over the top and garnish with a mint sprig.

November 16, 2011

Recipe - Ani Phyo's Raw Sweet Corn and Cashew Chowder

Oh my goodness, it's been too long people! The good news is that my back feels MUCH better. I still have no real answers as to what happened or why I was in so much pain, but I am very thankful to be able to move again and breathe without wincing. 

The last few weeks have been busy with social activities, working out with my new personal trainer (oh, my aching muscles) and flying home last week for my sister's wedding! She awesomely included lots of vegan options on her Lebanese-themed wedding menu like spinach afthiad (olive oil pastry stuffed with spinach and onions), garbanzo bean stuffed cabbage rolls, and hummus/ babaganoush with pita chips. My mom, dad, aunt and brother helped her cook the gigantic feast and every bit of it was so delicious! You could really taste the love. 
Early morning cactus. So pretty. 
Back in Tucson, I had so many people come up to me and tell me that they read and enjoy my blog. What a huge surprise! I often forget that what I write gets sent out into the universe for others to read and getting so much positive encouragement motivated me to get back to posting. I have lots of yummy foodstuffs to share with you. I'd like to kick things off with a simply scrumptious soup I made a few weekends ago. I followed this recipe by Ani Phyo who is a rockstar in the vegan/raw world. I'd never tried anything by her before, but I must say, this soup made me a fan! 

I'm not much into raw foods as my body simply seems to respond better to gently cooked foods. But I do like to add in some raw recipes and meals every now and then. The benefit is that so many of the vitamins and nutrients that would typically be lost in the cooking process stay intact with raw foods. I was a bit afraid that a soup with a base of raw corn would be way too starchy, but it wasn't at all. It was crisp, refreshing and nourishing. It's probably more suited for a hot summer day, but it did make for a perfect light lunch on an unseasonably warm autumn afternoon. The markets around here seem to be selling off the last of the summer corn for cheap, so it's cost effective, too!

I made a few changes to the recipe to cut down on the fat (reflected below) and added in some delicious fresh tomatoes. If you try out this recipe, be sure to use a blender and not a food processor if possible. I don't have a blender and my food processor ended up leaking out 90% of the water I put in. I just processed what stayed in and then added in water once it was in a bowl. You could also try using an immersion blender. 

Ani Phyo's Raw Sweet Corn and Cashew Chowder
Based on this recipe
Serves 4

3 ears of yellow corn, kernels removed
1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup water
fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tomato, diced
freshly ground black pepper

In a blender, combine 3/4 of the corn kernels, cashews, olive oil, garlic, salt and water and process until smooth. Divide the soup into four bowls and garnish with the reserved corn kernels, cilantro, chopped tomatoes, and pepper. Serve cold. (Can be chilled overnight.) 

October 19, 2011

I'm Injured - Vegan MoFo Tapout

Hi guys... As you may have noticed, it's been quite some time since I last posted. Yep, instead of "MoFoing" I've been "NoFoing". ((hangs head in shame)) Sadly, I've been dealing with some nasty health problems and cooking/blogging just haven't been in the cards.

I woke up last Thursday to a terrible, dull ache in my back. It's not my first time at the "Back Pain Rodeo" (apparently, it's where I hold all my stress), so I called in sick to work and started looking around for chiropractors in my area who accept my insurance. I got an adjustment that day and seemed to be feeling a bit better, but as the weekend wore on, I found I could barely breathe without whimpering. I went back to the chiro and got another adjustment on Monday evening, but by yesterday afternoon I was sitting at my desk at work and fighting back tears because my back hurt so much. I am NOT the girl who cries at work, dammit! Back to the chiro I went.

I tried to explain in greater detail the pain I was feeling, the panic of not being able to take a full breath without feeling like I was being shanked with a ballpoint pen, and my overall frustration with the situation. She felt around and realized that I had three rib heads out of place (three!!!) and said that was likely the reason I couldn't breathe. She popped them back in and, at my request, sent me uptown to get some x-rays done. Results of the x-rays are forthcoming.

I am breathing a bit easier today, but am I ever sore! I've just been trying to take it WAY easy and resting as much as possible. That means missing the sneak preview of "Paranormal Activity 3" last night (sniffle) and not cooking a scrap all week. Fingers crossed that I'll stay on the path to recovery and be back in the kitchen by this weekend. I'm super tired of over-salted take out and I really miss participating in Vegan MoFo!

Until then, stay well my peeps.


October 14, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 14 - A Survey!

I know, I know. Surveys are the worst! But maybe it'll help people get to know a little bit more about me. The official Vegan MoFo survey this year seems to be about gluten-free cooking, which I really don't know enough about, so I cobbled together two old MoFo surveys to make one giant super-survey. Feel free to chime in with your answers in the comments below!

Favorite non-dairy milk?

ZenSoy is pretty much the only soy milk I drink now (just wish it came in smaller cartons because I can never finish all that soy milk in 7-10 days!). Still looking for a good organic almond milk that isn't made by THE MAN.

Topping of choice for popcorn?

I make popcorn the old-fashioned way now! Put some organic popcorn kernels in the bottom of a big pot, coat with olive oil, cover with a lid and turn up the heat to medium-high. Shake the pot around until all the popping has stopped, then pour a little melted Earth Balance on top and sprinkle with sea salt. It's like crack.

Favorite pickled item?

My mom just reminded me how I loved pickled green tomatoes when I was a kid. I pretty much like any pickled veggie, especially if it’s nice and garlickey.

How do you organize your recipes?

My parents-in-law made each of their kids a binder of family recipes a few Christmases ago. It’s one of the cutest and funniest things ever! I keep all my hand-written and printed on-line recipes tucked inside there.

If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 foods… what would they be (don’t worry about how you’ll cook them)?

If my goal was to stay healthy: green kale, chickpeas, and brown rice. If I wanted to live out my days in debauchery: potato chips, candy bars, and whiskey.

Fondest food memory from your childhood?

The days-long Easter and Thanksgiving cooking frenzies starring my mom, grandma, aunt, cousins and great aunts!

Favorite vegan ice cream?

Lula’s Sweet Apothecary is the stuff that dreams are made of. For store bought, I love Purely Decadent Peanut Butter Zig Zag.

Most loved kitchen appliance?

I use my food processor about 1,000 times a week, sometimes multiple times in one cooking session. Her name is Dolly and she’s a trooper!

Spice/herb you would die without?


Cookbook you have owned for the longest time?

“The Kind Diet” – I still read it all the time for inspiration.

Favorite flavor of jam/jelly?

I’m an apple butter girl through-and-through.

Seitan, tofu, or tempeh?

Tempeh! It puts the others to shame.

What is sitting on top of your refrigerator?

Some of Johnny’s meds, some lightbulbs and occasionally a box of food that won’t fit in the cupboard.

Name 3 items in your freezer without looking.
Gardein Seven Grain Chick’n Strips, frozen strawberries, and frozen bananas (just put those in there last night in anticipation of making banana soft-serve!).

Favorite grocery store?

Natural Frontier, a local health food store that is only 3 blocks from my house. They carry so much awesome vegan stuff and have a juice bar!

Name a recipe you’d love to veganize, but haven’t yet.

My grandma’s Kentucky Prune Cake. I’m pretty sure its creation will bring about the end of the world, so I’ve been putting it off… you’re welcome.

Favorite vegan candy/chocolate?

Mahalo Bars by Go Max Go! I haven’t tried their other varieties yet, but the Mahalo Bars are like vegan Almond Joys. Yes, I just said “vegan Almond Joys.” <drool>

Most extravagant food item purchased lately?

$10 worth of raw cashews. I always underestimate how much food I’m getting in the bulk bins! I just like to press that lever and let the sundries flow.  

What is a food or dish you wouldn’t touch as a child, but enjoy now?

Mushrooms, beets, and brussel sprouts. Funny how tastes change so much as you grow.

What vegan dish or food you feel like you “should” like, but don’t?

I’ve had some good seitan, but I’ve also had enough bad seitan to be completely scared of it now.

What dish are your “famous” for making or bringing to gatherings?

Hummus! Our family has hummus flowing through our veins, what can I say?

What’s one food or dish you tend to eat too much of when you have it in your home?

"One food or dish" I tend to eat too much of? HA! One? Plain potato chips are the biggest offender (though certainly not the only offender). I cannot be trusted with them.

What ingredient or food is worth spending the extra money to get “the good stuff”?

Organic fruits and veggies, especially for juicing. I’d hate to end up with a glass half-full of pesticides and chemicals when I’m trying to be healthy.

What is your favorite vegetable? Fruit?

Veggie: green kale. Fruit: cherries. Line-straddler: avocado (it's like the androgynous "Pat" character of produce and it's delicious).

What is the best salad dressing?

I’m always down for some Goddess dressing, but Johnny loves when I make my own dressing using olive oil, balsamic, a bit of lemon juice, whole grain mustard and a touch of agave.

What is your favorite thing to put on toasted bread?

My homemade Nutella. Duh. Runner up: peanut butter and banana slices

What is your most-loved “weeknight meal”?

Nachos/tacos/burritos/tostadas. The toppings always include homemade guacamole, refried beans, tomato, and lettuce and sometimes include Soyrizo, Daiya Cheese, homemade salsa, or rice. The state of the tortillas matters not, they are merely topping delivery systems.

What is one dish or food you enjoy, but can’t get anyone else in your household to eat?

Olives. Black olives, green olives, Kalamata olives…  I miss you!

How long, in total, do you spend in the kitchen on an average day?

About 2 hours. Way longer on the weekends when I can be leisurely.

October 11, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 11 - Campfire Chili!

It seems like every good little vegan has their own recipe for vegan chili, but I made up a batch the other night that I thought was worth mentioning. The Red Merlot beans I'd purchased at Smorgasburg were burning a hole in my cupboard and I thought chili would be a great way to showcase them. I soaked them and some pinto beans for a few hours, tossed in the veggies and spices I thought would get along best with the beans, and also added some Texturized Soy Protein (TSP). 

If you're not familiar with TSP, it's made from de-fatted soy flour, it has as much protein as meat, and it's fat-free. Bazinga! TSP is dehydrated, so you have to let it sit in some water and re-hydrate before using. After that, you can pretty much toss it into anything and, much like tofu, it absorbs the flavors of whatever you're cooking it with. It comes in smaller granules and larger chunks - I used the granules here. It's super easy to use and was basically undetectable in this chili. I didn't mention to Johnny that I'd used TSP (he sometimes gets skeeved out by unknown ingredients before he even tastes them) and he certainly didn't notice anything awry. In fact, he ate two bowls of this chili and loved every bite!

I call this "Campfire Chili" because the rich, smoky, tomato-ey sauce and the slight spiciness would be perfect on a camping trip, but it's just as good snuggled under a blanket on the couch at home.

Oh, and a little note about the beans - I used dried beans because they're crazy cheap and it feels more hands on to cook my own beans that getting them out of a can. If you do use dried beans, make sure to soak them first and try cooking them with some dried kombu. Kombu is a type of seaweed and it makes the beans easier to digest. You won't be able to taste the kombu in the beans and you'll toot a whole lot less than you would otherwise!

Campfire Chili
Serves 8

1 1/2 cups dried beans of your choice (I used Red Merlot and pinto)
1-2" kombu (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pint mushrooms, chopped
1 carrot, cut into coins
2 tbsp chili powder (I used Ancho chili powder)
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
4 cups water
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 avocado (optional)

Pick through your dried beans and soak them in water in a large bowl  for at least 6 hours. The beans will double in volume, so make sure your bowl is big enough and you add enough water. After they've soaked and softened, drain the soaking liquid and place the beans in a large pot. Add enough water to cover and a few pieces of kombu - this is optional, but the kombu will make the beans easier to digest. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  The beans should still be a bit firm, but not crunchy.

Drain the beans and set them aside. In the same large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, pepper and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the carrots and mushrooms and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. When everything has softened, add the spices and liquid smoke, stirring to coat everything. In a separate container (I use a large glass measuring cup) whisk together the 4 cups water, bouillon and tomato paste until combined. Add the beans back into the pot and pour in the broth mixture.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes or just until the beans have cooked through and the flavors have married. Serve with avocado sliced or diced on top.

October 9, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 9 - Smorgasburg!

I'd been hearing great things about Smorgasburg, a foodie festival that takes place in Willamsburg, Brooklyn every Saturday, for awhile. It's run by the same people who host Brooklyn Flea on Sundays, but Smorgasburg is all about the edibles. Johnny and I decided to check it out, but the subway to Williamsburg wasn't running at the time. So we took a trip on the new East River Ferry. It was so much fun! It stops in Manhattan on 34th Street - very close to our apartment - and another stop is exactly at the Smorgasburg site in Willamsburg. Perfect! It was lots of fun to be out in the fresh air, enjoying the sun for one last time before the colder temps make outdoorsy activity less probable. 

The ferry with a view of Manhattan - how pretty!
Smorgasburg has lots of vendors selling food that's ready to eat and there are also vendors selling groceries to take home. On this particular day, there was also a record festival going on, which is perfect since we're trying to add to our record collection!

We did a quick cruise around all the tents before deciding what to eat - no easy feat since it was pretty crowded and we were starving. Barry's Tempeh stand caught my eye right away and it's where I ended up purchasing my first course - a BBQ tempeh sandwich. The tempeh is made right in Brooklyn from local grains, beans and seasonings. It was really good! The sandwich was kept simple, with the tempeh cubed and smothered in a tangy, smoky BBQ sauce, and a sesame hamburger bun. The sauce had caramelized a bit and was sticky, crunchy and sweet. Yummmmm. I think I might re-create this and add some vegan cole slaw on top. 

Next up, I headed for the Kombucha Brooklyn stand where they had fresh Kombucha on tap! I've only had bottled Kombucha before, so I was excited to try it this way. I went for the Mellow Yellow mild Kombucha. It was pretty good, but a bit strong for my taste. Something in it - ginger perhaps? - made it a bit spicy. Still overall it was a refreshing beverage for a hot day. But it looked like a cup of pee, so I didn't bother taking a picture. 

Finally, I made my way to Rob & Anna's, a stand selling frozen, blended banana soft serve. (Rob & Anna's = raw bananas... get it?) I was so happy to see that one of their toppings was VEGAN CHOCOLATE SAUCE! The sweet, clean banana flavor and the light chocolate sauce were the perfect combo. I am definitely gonna try to make my own banana soft serve at home - just blend frozen bananas in a food processor till smooth... I can handle that!

Johnny spent the day eating some very non-vegan items (ahem), but for dessert he checked out People's Pops. They have a big slab of ice and shave the ice right in front of your eyes! They had a bunch of crazy syrups to add in, like red pepper and cantaloupe chai. Johnny went for the Concord grape and absolutely devoured the icy concoction. 

After we were stuffed, we wandered around the grocery stalls and picked up some goodies. I bought a pound of Red Merlot beans from Brooklyn Bean. They had an amazing assortment of dried beans, many of which were local, and they were all $4/pound - not bad by Smorgasburg standards! I also got some insanely delicious whole grain mustard from Tin Mustard that is not too spicy, not too sweet, and the whole mustard seeds burst in your mouth. Delicious! Finally, we got a bag of Better Than Brittle, a vegan peanut brittle that is "West African Style". The peanuts are ground before the brittle is made and they use much less sugar that other brittles - and no corn syrup. The result is so peanutty and crunchy, a perfect snack! 

We picked out a few records and then made our way home on the ferry with our haul. Quite the productive and scrumptious Saturday! I highly recommend the East River Ferry and Smorgasburg for a quintessential New York day!

October 6, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 6 - Vegan Package Swap!

Aside from this being the first year I am participating in Vegan MoFo, it's also the first year I participated in the Vegan Care Package Swap! It is hosted by Lindsay over at Cook, Vegan, Lover and to participate I just submitted my name to her back in September and was paired up with someone to swap care packages with. I was paired up with Michelle from lovinlivinvegan and can I say it has just been a joy getting to know Michelle over the past few weeks! Michelle lives in Tennessee and I live in New York, so it's been awesome to compare and contrast what it's like to be a vegan in such different geographic locations. I told her early on that it was so exciting to chat with her over e-mail because I don't even know any vegans in "real life"! She's such a sweetie and I'm sure our friendship will continue even after the care package swap concludes!

I received Michelle's package on Tuesday and it was such a lovely feeling to open up a big box of amazing vegan goodies that were all hand-picked just for me! Here's what I got: a spice mix for roasted veggies and fries; dried mango chips; Yogi Calming tea; granola bites; some crackers from a country store; Vitamin C lollipops; coconut flour; all-purpose sauce; a cute little chick scrubber; and (not pictured) a bag of Sea Salt PopCorners popcorn chips and some Nana's chocolate cookie bars! That's a lot of stuff!

So far, I have already inhaled the entire bag of PopCorners (those things are good!) and last night I cracked open the mango chips, only to find they had disappeared a few minutes later. Who knew dried mango slices could be so darn tasty? I also sampled the Nana's cookie bars - which are vegan AND gluten-free - and they're quite delicious. And the Vitamin C lollipops are so genius - Johnny is battling a cold right now that I don't want to catch and there's no yummier way to boost my Vitamin C intake than by sucking on a lolli. I can't wait to try all the other items, I'm especially excited to try to Coconut Flour and will be hunting for just the right recipe to use it in. 

Thanks so much to Lindsay for hosting and organizing the swap, it's such a great way to get to know a fellow vegan! And thanks to Michelle for being so rad and for sending me such a thoughtful care package! (Michelle will hopefully be receiving her package on Friday, so be sure to check out her blog for her upcoming post! Plus her blog is just really cool to read anyway)

October 5, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 5 - Call Snookie, I'm Officially a Juicehead

Has everyone gotten tired of hearing about juice/ juicing/ juice fasts/ juice feasts/ juicy-juicy-juice-juice? I know, this is hardly a new topic to be introducing to the blog-o-sphere, but c'mon! We all have our own relationships with juice, our own stories to tell. Surely a blogger cannot be denied her right to discuss her juice tale at length. So relax, take a deep breath, and float with me down this celery-scented river...

Johnny has been begging me to purchase a juicer for years now. He saw a Jack LaLane infomercial at 3:00am five years ago and I guess it stuck with him. He's a bit susceptible to infomercials - he's also begged me to order the Bullet blender, a steam cleaner, velvet hangers, and a lot of other crap over the years - but while those items came and went, the desire for a juicer stayed with him. I was hesitant to cave to his request as I've heard so many people admit, "I bought a juicer, used it twice, then threw it out of my car window while driving down I-10". Our kitchen certainly isn't big enough to house any unnecessary appliances. Would we really drink juice all that much? What if the juice tasted gross?

Then I received the book "Crazy, Sexy Diet" by Kris Carr for my birthday this year. Many peeps are already familiar with her, but in case you're not: Kris Carr was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in her early 30s and given months to live. She took a radical approach to her health and as a result, she is now 40-years-old and is cancer-free! Her road to recovery included a lot of juice, raw fruits and veggies, and whole grains. She completely cut out animal products, processed and refined foods, sugar, and alcohol. She credits this diet with saving her life. Pretty cool, huh?

A few weeks ago, something snapped and I finally decided to order a juicer from Amazon. It arrived one Tuesday and sat there in its box, just waiting for me to love it. It sat there and sat there for 4 days. I wasn't sure where to begin and I felt a little anxious about it.

For inspiration, I decided to watch the documentary, "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" on Netflix. It follows a guy named Joe from Australia who is 100 pounds overweight and who struggles with health issues, including a rare auto-immune disorder that causes him to have a painful rash over most of his body. He is taking lots of steroids and other medications and his diet consists of mostly fast food and little or no fruits and veggies. One day, he decides he's had enough and he embarks on a 60-day trip around America during which he will consume nothing but fresh vegetable and fruit juice. 60 DAYS!

The results are staggering. Joe is able to wean himself of all medication, including steroids. His rash and other medical issues completely clear up. He loses all 100 pounds and becomes more energized and active than he's been in decades. He's the picture of health and he attributes it all to juicing. And mid-way through the movie, he's contacted by Phil, a truck-driver he met in Winslow, AZ (of all places) and Phil needs Joe's help. Phil is tipping the scales at 400+ pounds, he suffers from as many health conditions as Joe did, and he's severely depressed about where his life is headed. With Joe's help, Phil drops 200 pounds and becomes a health-nut! I literally broke down in tears as Phil, who previously could barely walk, is shown jogging down the road like a seasoned marathon runner. Powerful stuff, y'all!

That was the inspiration I needed. It was all I could do not to pause the movie and go make my juice right away, but the movie was too interesting to stop! As the credits rolled, I unearthed my Breville Juice Fountain from all its packaging. I rinsed it all in hot, soapy water and familiarized myself with the Users' Manual. Then I plugged it in and got to work. My first batch of juice consisted of: 1/2 package organic baby carrots; 4 stalks celery; 1 pint raspberries; 2 green apples; and 1 small bunch of kale. The juice was a strange greenish-brown color and smelled not unlike freshly cut grass. Johnny emerged from the bedroom, all sleepy-eyed and curious, like a tot on Christmas morn'. I handed him a glass of the stuff and we both took a sip. "Not bad!" he said as his eyes brightened. I concurred.

Peany Lyman, decidedly not wheezing the juice. 
I'm not gonna lie, juice might be a little hard to take if you're not already a lover of fresh fruits and veggies. But if you've ever craved a salad or wanted an apple instead of a piece of candy, I think you'd dig this stuff! My first batch was a bit heavy on the celery (Johnny said my breath still smelled like celery later that night, teehee!), but it's been so much trying out combinations of fruit and veggies to see what I come up with. I've loved adding fresh ginger to give the juice a zip, concord grapes for sweetness, and parsley and spinach for nutrition. It's a great way to use up produce at the end of the week that might otherwise go bad, or to buy up produce that's on sale at the store. I can see how people get hooked on juice, just the thought of it is making me salivate as if I were dreaming about a pile of french fries!  

Now let's get something straight here: I'm am, always have been, and always will be staunchly against extreme food fasts. I've witnessed one too many girls in my life hallucinating and on the verge of passing out because they've consumed nothing but water with lemon juice and cayenne pepper in it for 2 weeks straight. Their goal is usually to fit into a cute dress for their high school reunion, then as soon as the fast ends they go back to eating normal food and gain back every ounce of weight they lost. To me that seems a bit counter-productive and I've never wanted any part of that. 

However, as Joe consumed his juice for 60 days in "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead", he made me see that "fasts" don't always have to be dangerous experiments you read about in Cosmo. He was monitored by doctors every step of the way, he still consumed a good amount of calories, and his main goal was never to lose weight simply to make the guy who dumped him senior year feel like crap. His goal was to be healthy and that's always an objective I can stand behind.

I don't think I'm quite ready to take the plunge and do an all out juice fast quite yet. For now, I think I'll be happy occasionally drinking a big glass of green juice in lieu of breakfast or lunch. Cheers!

October 3, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 3 - "Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food" Review

Hello my friends! For Day 3 of Vegan MoFo I wanted to bring your attention to an awesome new cooking zine I got my hands on recently. It's called "Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food" and it's written by Miss Kittee Berns. Anyone who is a vegan and is also gluten-free has GOT to know about her. Kittee is an absolute rockstar when it comes to cooking and baking without animal products or gluten. In fact, she even coined the term "xgfx" as the shorthand for "vegan and gluten-free". Pretty ingenious, huh?

Kittee writes a blog called The Cakemaker to the Stars, is also a founder and contributor to the site, and she is one of the organizers of Vegan MoFo. In her spare time, she self-publishes a series of cooking zines that are quite legendary in the vegan-verse. Her latest, "Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food" focuses on... Ethiopian food! It's a topic which has never been fully covered in any vegan cookbook before, and as I read through the zine I came to realize what a fascinating cuisine it truly is.  

Personally, I've been a fan of Ethiopian food since I first set foot in Zemam's, a wonderful little restaurant back in Tucson. It feels more like you're eating in someone's home than in a restaurant. For those not familiar with Ethiopian food, you order several dishes to try (either on your own or as a group) and the food is served in heaps on top of a big piece of airy flatbread called injera. You get extra injera on the side and you scoop up and eat the food with it. No flatware! Eating with your hands may seem strange, but as they say at Zemam's, the majority of the world's inhabitants eat with their hands and it's quite fun! Most Ethiopian food is highly spiced (but not necessarily spicy) and the flavors are unlike any other cuisine I've tried. It's the perfect food for vegans and vegetarians because they offer a lot of lentil and vegetable based dishes. Yum!

Anyway, back to Papa Tofu! Kittee really did her research on this one. She starts off by giving a very helpful intro to the spices and ingredients you'll need to make the recipes. Two of the most important items are berbere, a spice blend, and niter kibbeh, a spiced butter or margarine that is used in place of cooking oil. I was able to find berbere at Kalustyan's, my neighborhood ethnic foods market, but the niter kibbeh has to be prepared at home. 
The meal I made thanks to Kittee!
There are so many amazing dishes to choose from in this zine, it's hard to narrow it down! I decided to cook the Lentils in Spicy Gravy and Collard Greens. I actually planned on making the Black Eyed Pea Sausages, but I was out of black eyed peas. Those are definitely on my radar for next time!

All in all, I found the recipes really easy to follow and spot-on with the measurements. Anytime I was confused by a word or term, I referred back to the intro. As everything cooked, the scents kept luring Johnny into the kitchen to check out the action and say, "It smells so good in here!" The lentils had so many flavors and the fresh tomatoes were a perfect ingredient. The overall dish turned out a little spicier than I anticipated, but neither of us mind a little heat. And the collards, cooked with a touch of cinnamon, were so delicious. Since I didn't get to cook the Black Eyed Pea Sausages, I served the lentils over some brown Basmati rice and the flavors went together quite well. And, since I cooked this on a weeknight and was short on time, I didn't get to tackle her recipe for homemade injera (she calls 'em Injera Fakeouts since they are GF). I bought some frozen Chaptis (Indian flatbread) and grilled them up and they were delicious. It was a cross-cultural dinner for sure, but everything worked together nicely. "Eaters Without Borders" I like to call us.

And can I just take a minute to say how cool it is that zines still exist? Zine culture was so big in the 90s (as everyone knows, my favorite decade) and the thought that you can still have a great idea, cut and paste it into a booklet, photocopy it and distribute it to the masses warms my little heart. Kittee does such a good job adhering to the feeling of those old zines while making it look polished and modern. Well done!

I can't wait to make more of the recipes from "Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food" as the weather cools. I highly recommend picking up a copy of your own! You can purchase it on Kittee's web site here.

October 2, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 2: Nutella Stuffed French Toast!

Okay, so I'm a day late and a dollar short to this whole MoFo thing. It technically started yesterday, but my awesome friends John and Katie got married and the whole day just kinda got away from me (in the best way possible). Luckily for Day Two I have something fan-freaking-tastic to post about! 

During October, Sundays here on The Odd Couple Eats will be dedicated to brunch recipes. I wanted to come out of the gate with a bang and I whipped up a doozy today! Did you know Nutella isn't vegan? It contains milk ingredients which is a HUGE BUMMER. I got to reading on the internets and found out that it's not too hard to make your own vegan hazelnut-chocolate spread (a.k.a. Nutella), so I knew it would be a great project to tackle during MoFo. 

I bought some raw hazelnuts and got to work roasting them. After they were browned, I took them out of the oven and let them cool. I could hear the skins crackling as they cooled, which meant that the meat was pulling away from the skin (dirty). I then placed the nuts in a kitchen towel and rubbed them together (ahhh!) and the skins came off pretty well. Here's what it looked like:

Pretty! And roasted hazelnuts smell amazing. I proceeded to make the Nutella and got it to chilling while I prepped the French Toast ingredients. 

I used Isa Chandra Moskowitz's "Fronch Toast" recipe from her book "Vegan with a Vengeance." It really gets the job done like no other vegan French Toast recipe I've tried. However, it does call for chickpea flour which I was unable to find at the grocery store. I had some dried chickpeas, so I decided to see if I could make then into flour and lo and behold, it worked! I processed them in my food processor for about 37 years and then passed it through a sifter to get out any chunks. Be warned, the sound of chickpeas whirring around in the food processor makes the worst, loudest sound you'll ever hear! Something akin to the Dementors from Harry Potter crossed with a subway with screechy brakes. Johnny managed to sleep through the whole thing, but I was yearning for ear plugs. If you can find chickpea flour at the store, by all means snatch it up!

I assembled two slices of bread with Nutella in between, dipped them in the Fronch Toast batter, and fried in a thin layer of Canola Oil in a skillet for about 7 minutes on each side. I then sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with organic maple syrup, tempeh bacon, and baby concord grapes. What a delicious way to start a Sunday!

Johnny was super impressed with everything and says he has "no critiques whatsoever" for this dish. Good, because anyone who doesn't enjoy this recipe is quite simply out of their mind!

Nutella Stuffed French Toast
Serves 2

Vegan Nutella
1 1/4 cups raw hazelnuts
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp powdered sugar
1/4 cup Canola oil

French Toast
1 loaf French bread (I used a small organic whole wheat loaf)
1/2 cup soy creamer
1/2 cup soy milk
2 tbsp corn starch
1/4 cup chickpea flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring once to ensure even browning. Remove from oven and allow to cool for several minutes, then pour into a clean kitchen towel. Gather the towel into a bundle and rub together until most of the hazelnut skin has come off. Transfer the skinned hazelnuts to a food processor. Blend for about 5 minutes or until the hazelnuts have become like a butter. Be sure to scrape down the sides and pulse so as not to overload your food processor. Add in the cocoa, powdered sugar, and drizzle in the oil as you continue blending until you have a spreadable consistency. The Nutella will become thicker as it cools. Transfer to an airtight container or jar and place in the refrigerator. 

Slice your loaf of bread into 1/2" pieces. In a large, shallow dish whisk together the soy creamer, soy milk, corn starch and chickpea flour until well combined. Begin heating a large skillet over medium heat coated with a thin layer of Canola oil. Take a slice of bread and spread about a tablespoon of Nutella on it, then cover with another piece of bread. Dip both sides into the batter then place in the heated skillet. Allow to cook for 7 minutes, then flip and cook for another 7 minutes, or until deeply browned. Continue until you have used all your bread. 

Top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and serve with maple syrup. 

And now for a few gratuitous pictures of the gorgeous wedding. Congrats John & Katie! <3