Sunday, February 27, 2011

Vegan Brunch at The Zenith

I've been wanting to go The Zenith Vegetarian Cafe in the South Side for their famous vegan Sunday brunch forever. Today I went for the first time with Nichelle, who I met at the Happy Herbivore book signing a few weeks ago.

It was everything it was hyped up to be. We each got the Almond French Toast with Blueberry Sauce for an entree. It tasted as good as it sounds--amazing! There was some Mediterranean orzo side that came with it that was also really good.

There were a ton of other brunch items served on a buffet: mixed greens salad, fruit salad, a black bean salad, potato salad, macaroni salad, some chickpea dish that was really good and, my favorite, peanut noodles.There was a whole other table of just cakes in flavors like chocolate coconut, rum raisin, and ginger pineapple. I got chocolate chocolate chip (amazing) and peanut butter with dark berry icing. The peanut butter wasn't too peanut buttery, but other than that they were fantastic. I think anyone, not just vegans, would love this place--there's a big variety, and everything's really good. Can't wait to go back.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lotus Foods in the Strip District

I have a love-hate relationship with the Strip District. I love that I can walk there in 10 to 15 minutes and can find pretty much any ingredient that I could possibly need. I hate that it's always crowded with slow-walking, gawking people who amble right out in front of cars, the drivers of which then become so irritated that they try to break every driving law to get through, and then general chaos ensues.

Today I needed miso and a few other things, so we walked over to Lotus Foods in the Strip. I got miso, hoisin sauce, and a splurge: black rice noodles. I've been hearing that black rice is the new brown rice, and these noodles just look cool. I think I'll make a peanut sauce for them. My husband bought some Asian junk food: gummy candy and pumpkin seeds.

Appetite for Reduction: Pasta con Broccoli

This recipe is very basic: broccoli and noodles in a spicy, garlicky broth. It's good for what it is, but there wasn't a whole lot to be excited about in this recipe. It was very quick and easy to make, though. If I made it again, I'd stir-fry some cubed tofu in a little oil and mix it in.

The recipes calls for 1/4 cup sliced garlic plus three minced garlic cloves. That's a lot!You saute all the garlic with thyme and red pepper flakes before adding veggie broth and white wine. The recipe said to saute the garlic for only one minute. I sauteed for longer but actually wish I would have cooked it even longer. I don't think the garlic flavor really came out as much as it would have if the garlic was sauteed longer.The final dish was in between "OK" and "good." While it didn't make me or my husband rave over it, it was decent for a quick dinner.

Appetite for Reduction: Hummus

A reduced-fat version of hummus? Sold. Hummus is so easy to eat too much of, so I was excited to try the version in Appetite for Reduction. It uses no tahini but does use 1 tablespoon of oil. I made the plain version (there are several variations.) It was just OK. I'll eat it and be happy with it, but this isn't my favorite hummus recipe. I liked the reduced-fat cauliflower hummus from Veganomicon better. I think it was the oil that I didn't like in this version. Next time I'm going to omit the oil completely (I'll substitute it with the reserved chickpea cooking liquid) and try a variation.

Tofu and Mushroom Scramble

I love tofu scrambles because they're so versatile, easy to make, and really good. I love the Happy Herbivore version (which to me tastes the most like eggs) and also Isa Chandra's version on the Post Punk Kitchen. But today I was in a lazy mood so made the quickest, easiest version there is from a British cookbook called Vegan Feasts by Rose Elliot. I ate it with roasted potatoes and kale chips for a really good, quick, and filling lunch (I was stuffed.) Here's the recipe from Vegan Feasts, which I modified slightly.

Tofu and Mushroom Scramble
Serves 4
  • 1 package extra-firm tofu (14 ounces)
  • 1 package mushrooms (8 ounces), sliced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons tamari (I start with 1 and usually end up with 2)
  • pinch turmeric
  • pinch cumin
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for about five minutes, or until they start turning brown and releasing liquid.
  2. Crumble the tofu into the pan. Add 1 tablespoon of the tamari, a pinch of turmeric, and a pinch of cumin. Cook for about five more minutes until everything is heated through. If the pan gets dry, add more tamari. I usually use 2 tablespoons of tamari by the time it's done.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and eat immediately (though it will taste good reheated.)
WeightWatchers PointsPlus Values: 3

Park House: Neighborhood Bar Meets Vegan Food

The Park House Tavern on East Ohio Street in the Northside dates back to 1889 when it first opened as a soda fountain. After the end of the Prohibition it became Pittsburgh's first licensed bar in 1932.

A 10-minute walk from my house, this friendly neighborhood bar has a ton of character--high tin ceilings, an old-school bar, and comfy booths and tables.

But I love to go there because of the food. While the menu is limited, they do have some vegan and vegetarian options. The owner, Zamir, is known as The Falafelmaster and makes great spicy hummus and falafel (shaped like hearts!). We went there last night, and I got the middle east platter that has hummus, falafel, and tabbouleh. It's all delicious. You can also get a falafel sandwich or a vegetarian spinach burrito. And freshly made popcorn and peanuts are always free!

The Park House is a short walk from the North Shore stadiums and the Andy Warhol Museum, so if you're in town and on the North Shore, the Park House is worth a stop.

Image from oetii on Flicker.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Week 7: Project Food Budget

Week 7 of Reluctant Vegetarian's Project: Food Budget

Goal: $100
Actual: $14.99

My budget went to a single item: a 10-pound bag of brown basmati rice. I could say that all my lessons learned last week paid off this week, but, really, I bought so much last week that I didn't need to grocery shop. Meals included (some of which I planned to make last week but didn't):
As always, this doesn't include the 10 servings or so of fruit and raw veggies I eat every day (I stocked up on all these last week too, though my fruit bowl is now bare, so I'll be shopping tonight). Also as always, I baked my own whole-wheat bread to save money.

I'm thinking my actual might be the lowest out of everyone participating this week?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Appetite for Reduction: Mushroom Tibs

I don't think words can describe the taste of this Ethiopian dish, but then I guess Ethiopian food flavors are hard to describe in general. In one word: Wow. (Hey, and my word's a you know this recipe is pretty special.)

The sauce starts out from humble beginnings: vegetable broth, olive oil, and tomato paste mixed together. Then you add spice after spice after spice--some curry, cayenne, thyme, and cumin, some unexpected Hungarian paprika (I used smoked paprika) and cloves, and others I'm forgetting. This is the first time in maybe ever that I didn't have one of the spices the recipe called for--cardamom. I just omitted it and didn't try a substitute.

You coat halved mushrooms in this thick sauce and bake for 20 minutes. I used slightly less mushrooms than the recipe called for so I could save some for a tofu scramble later in the week. So it came out very saucy, and the recipe said the mushrooms were supposed to be thickly coated. I like the sauciness better. It tasted amazing, so good that I sopped up all the sauce with some whole-wheat toast. I plan to make it again and serve it over brown basmati rice with some baked curried tofu as an entree. Two thumbs up!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower with Miso-Tahini Dressing

I had some cauliflower left over and realized that I like it much better roasted plain instead of with herbed breadcrumbs. I didn't have much time tonight to prep a sauce to go with it so made Veganomicon Miso-Tahini Dressing. It takes all of one minute to make and is delicious. Paired with roasted cauliflower....amazing!

Someone posted the Miso-Tahini recipe here. I made a two-serving recipe by using 2 tablespoons each of the miso, tahini, and water.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Vegan Rice Crispy Squares

The Big Fat Crispy Rice Squares in Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar have been on my list to try. I made them yesterday, they froze overnight, and I cut them tonight. I made two big mistakes.

First, the recipe called for brown rice cereal. The only thing I could find was Koala Crisps (a kids' cereal) whose main ingredient is organic brown rice flour. When I got it home and opened it, I realized they were sweetened with chocolate flavor. So these ended up turning out really sweet. I still liked them, but they'd have been better with regular puffed rice cereal. The gooey, sweet stuff that holds it all together tastes remarkably like the melted buttery marshmallow goo used in regular rice crispy treats.

Second, I used really cheap, thin aluminum foil to coat the pan. They were so sticky that it was hard to get the foil off the bottom.

They'd have been better if I'd used the right ingredients and used better foil, but these were just yummy enough for me.

Appetite for Reduction: Curried Chickpeas & Greens

Fantastic! This recipe starts off in a way no other recipe I've made has: by popping mustard seeds in a pot with a little olive oil. Next you add and saute diced onion, minced garlic and ginger, and red pepper flakes. Next comes crushed tomatoes then spices (curry, cumin, coriander, garam masala, and salt). Then you add finely chopped kale and cook it down, then let it simmer until it gets very tender and velvety. Finally, you add chickpeas and let it all cook together so the flavors mesh.

I served it over brown basmati rice--the first time I've ever tried this rice. (Tonight's a night of exciting firsts for me!) It took a while to chop up all the kale and other veggies and make the rice, but once all the prep was over, it was easy to put together and done in about a half-hour.

It's mmmmmm....really, really good. This is my absolute favorite kind of recipe: when something made with really nutritious whole foods tastes so wonderful. I give this two huge thumbs up. My omnivore husband really liked it too.

Appetite for Reduction: Herbed Roasted Cauliflower with Breadcrumbs

This was just okay. Maybe the mix of herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, salt, black pepper) didn't sit right with me, but I like plain roasted caulflower, brushed with oil and sprinkled with sea salt, better. But it's a good low-fat version of breaded cauliflower.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Herbivore Smoky Black Bean Enchiladas

Last night I made Smoky Black Bean Enchiladas from The Happy Herbivore Cookbook. I love recipes like this that use very few, simple ingredients (tofu, black beans, and seasonings) that all come together wonderfully to create an absolutely delicious meal. This was awesome! You can find the recipe on the Happy Herbivore website.There's a recipe for enchilada sauce in the Happy Herbivore Cookbook that looks really easy and quick. But I had chile peppers I needed to use, so I used the Roasted Chile Enchilada Sauce from Veganomicon. So good!!!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Classic Hummus

This is the hummus I make to take to parties. It's always a hit. The secret is cooking your own chickpeas and using the chickpea cooking liquid to make it really creamy and smooth. The taste of the freshly cooked chickpeas shines in this recipe. I've converted many people to cooking their own chickpeas based on this hummus! I adapted the original recipe from Vegetarian Times for this recipe. Note that the related article includes variations (spicy hummus, sun-dried tomato hummus, roasted pepper hummus, green chile and cilantro hummus).
Classic Hummus
Makes slightly more than 3 cups

  • 3 cups cooked, warm chickpeas, cooking liquid reserved
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chickpea cooking liquid
Purée warm chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, and tahini, and salt in food processor for 2 to 5 minutes,
scraping down sides of bowl if necessary. Add the tablespoons of the chickpea cooking liquid down the chute while it's running, until you get the consistency you want (less for chunkier, more for smoother.) Puree until it's very creamy. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Spicy Hummus Variation
At the last minute of processing, add 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper and one minced garlic. Sprinkle with paprika.

How and Why to Cook Your Own Chickpeas

Until I started cooking my own chickpeas, I didn't like them very much. I'd use them to make hummus but wouldn't eat them whole from a can. This Vegetarian Times article insisted that the best hummus starts from chickpeas you cook yourself. So I dug out the slow cooker that was buried, unopened, in my basement since I got it as a present five years ago and made my first batch. VeggieCarrie gave me the tip to cook them with some chopped onion.

The smell that filled the house was unbelievably wonderful. When they were done, I stood at the slow cooker eating the warm chickpeas by the spoonful. This is what chickpeas should taste like, I realized, not the bland ones from a can. I've been cooking them ever since. Many people on Twitter have asked me about it, so here's a basic recipe for how to cook chickpeas.

Why you should cook your own chickpeas:
  1. Taste is simply fabulous, infinitely better than canned.
  2. You can cook them to the texture you want. The canned ones are too firm for me. I cook mine to be very soft.
  3. You'll save money. Chickpeas are very inexpensive at Indian food marts. It costs about $4 for a huge bag that can last for months, even if you make them every weekend.
  4. It's easy! It takes less than five minutes to dump everything into the slow cooker, and in three hours on high, they're done. (Note that I've been unsuccessful at cooking beans in a pot on the stove. You have to keep the water to a very gentle simmer, which I find hard to do. Mine would boil and then just break apart. But if you're willing to watch the pot, chickpeas can be cooked in about a half hour.)
  5. The chickpea cooking water is really good. I save it to use in hummus, soups and sometimes in recipes that call for vegetable broth.

How to cook chickpeas:
  1. Rinse 1 cup of chickpeas well. They can be dirty. I don't soak mine before I cook them, but you can.
  2. Put 1 cup of chickpeas in the slow cooker stoneware and add 3 cups of cold water. You can also add whatever seasonings you want. I always add 1 chopped onion and 1 minced garlic garlic clove.
  3. Cook on high for about 3 hours (start checking at 2 hours) or on low for longer. When they're soft enough for you, they're done.
  4. I drain the cooking water into another pot and either refrigerate or freeze it to use in place of vegetable broth.
1 cup of dried chickpeas yields about 3 cups of cooked chickpeas. You can easily increase the amount--for every cup of chickpeas, add 3 cups water. Chickpeas will keep in the fridge for about a week or can be frozen.

Happy chickpea cooking!

Cookbook Club: Veganomicon Review

I reviewed this book as part of Cook Vegan Lover's Cookbook Club.

When I first got this book, I spent hours going through it, drooling over the recipes and reading every word of the tips, techniques, and recipes' intros. I made the following list of everything I wanted to make first, but, really, I wanted to try everything.
I made a lot (see below) and feel Veganomicon was my new best friend for the month or so that we were inseperable. Overall, I give this cookbook five out of five stars. The tons of recipes are all (well, mostly all) delicious and unique, the extra information was valuable, and I just love the authors' humor. I'll use this cookbook forever. It's the cookbook I'll pull out when I'm having a dinner party or am asked to bring something to a potluck and want to impress people. But I'll also use it for daily cooking for myself. The details...

I Loved
  • Pretty much all the recipes I tried except for one or two. The book says there are 250 recipes, but it seems like even more. I feel like I could cook from this book for a year and never run out of recipes. They span everything from quick recipes for beginners to marathoners for hard-core cooks. I loved the variety--from Middle Eastern to Indian to Mexican and everything in between. The majority of the recipes were five-star hits--dishes I'd bring to a potluck or serve for a dinner party when I want to impress omnivores. Others were excellent additions to my regular rotation of just-for-me meals. My omnivore husband, who is suspicious of vegan recipes, really liked all the dishes he tried.
  • The wealth of good information on topics like Stocking the Veganomicon Pantry, Kitchen Equipment, Cooking and Prepping Terminology, Lower-Fat Cooking, How to Cook a Vegetable, How to Cook a Grain, and How to Cook a Bean. There was one tip that, for me, was worth buying the entire book: to reduce fat, start off by sauteeing with just a bit of oil, and then add vegetable broth when it becomes dry. I will use this tip for the rest of my life! The other sections also had really good tips and basic cooking instructions.
I Didn't Love So Much
  • The large amount of oil most recipes called for, and the general heaviness (fat and calories) in many of the recipes I tried. I tried to follow the recipes exactly, so I didn't use the above lower-fat cooking tip. I lost weight last year and am diligent about maintaining it. For the first time since last September, I gained a few pounds! I know it was because I was making so many of these recipes, as I don't usually eat such heavy foods. (Though, OK, it was my own fault for eating two whole rows of the Fudgy Blueberry Brownies at a time!)
  • How time intensive most of the recipes I tried were. I felt like I spent my entire weekend in the kitchen with these recipes, though that may be because I also made the suggested sauces/side dishes too.
Review of Recipes I Tried

My "Impress" Favorites: Will make to impress people, especially omnivores.

My Own Favorites: While maybe not omni-friendly or maybe not creative enough to impress, I loved these and will make them often (some of these are likely quick to make and/or low-fat).
Good but not Special: I'm not sure I'd make these again, or I'd use them differently, or they were too time instensive for just being good but not great.

Just OK: Probably won't make again.
Tamarind Lentils

Other Reviews

The Good
  • I liked the different sections of similar foods and their intros.
  • The icons were helpful but not intuitive--I kept having to go back to the front for their meaning (I'm still not sure what "S" means).
  • The instructions were very detailed. I liked how they gave tips like, "It should be very thick at this point."
  • The tips in the shaded boxes were helpful.
The Bad
  • Yes, the tips were good, but sometimes I didn't see them until I'd already started the recipe and was past the point where they would have helped. Also, some tips apply to multiple recipes, but you don't know that unless you read the entire book and remember they're there.
  • I don't think the time estimates were accurate--they usually took longer. I'm pretty fast at chopping veggies, but I think you'd need to be the Iron Chef to meet these time estimates.
  • The typos. Oh, the typos. I'm an editor, so the typos were particularly painful. I don't blame the typos on the authors, though. It's an editor's job to catch them before publication. Isa and Terry, please send your manuscript to me next time. I will proof it for free! My favorite typo (I can't remember which recipe it was for) said "Serves 46" instead of "Serves 4-6."
I love food photos so was dissapointed at the small section of photos. They were beautiful, but scant. I'd love a photo for every recipe and would have paid extra for more photos.

Pretty much all the ingredients were easy to find or I had on hand and didn't require equipment I didn't have. I did, however, buy cooking tongs and love the suggestion. They're so much better to cook things like greens and asparagus.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Appetite for Reduction: Caesar Salad with Eggplant Bacon and Caesar Chavez Dressing

I never liked bacon when I ate meat. The white fatty parts grossed me out. But when I went vegetarian, I started using veg bacon for flavoring in things like soups and dips. Of course, Morningstar Farms veg bacon isn't vegan, and I haven't been motivated to look for vegan bacon. But I was curious to try the Caesar Salad with Eggplant Bacon and Caesar Chavez Dressing in Appetite for Reduction.Tonight I made it as a side for dinner, but it ended up being the main course when I couldn't stop eating it and devoured an entire eggplant and head of romaine lettuce on my own. It's AWESOME. The eggplant is smoky and salty and goes wonderfully with the salty/creamy/cool dressing, which I'd made earlier in the week. Does it taste like real bacon? It's been so long since I had real bacon that I have no clue. But I do know it's absolutely delicious. Someone posted the recipe for the eggplant bacon here. Enjoy! Note that I peeled my eggplant, which the recipe doesn't call for. Also note that it serves 4, and I ate it all on my own. It's so addictive! I'll make this often and eat it on salads, sandwiches, in tofu scrambles, or just as a snack.
I've loved everything I've made in Appetite for Reduction, but this recipe is my favorite so far. These photos don't do it justice!

Week 6: Project Food Budget

Week 6 of Reluctant Vegetarian's Project: Food Budget

Goal: $100
Actual: $94.81

Six weeks in to this food budget project, I've learned I can save a lot of money by
  • Buying some produce (lemons, limes, bananas, and garlic especially) and basic staples (chocolate chips, cocoa powder, whole-wheat pasta, frozen strawberries, maple syrup, and olive oil) at Trader Joe's. Is there anywhere else where you can get a quart of olive oil for $5.99?!
  • Stocking up on produce on sale at Giant Eagle.
  • Stocking up on sale items at Right By Nature. When they put stuff on sale, it's usually a huge discount--$5 off tahini, $6 off whole-wheat flour, etc.
  • Taking measuring cups to the bulk bins and buying only what I need. (This was another blogger's suggestion--thanks to whomever it was!)
  • Buying spices, dried beans, and rice from Indian groceries.
  • Baking my own bread (and pitas, pizza dough, and other breads) and cooking my own veg stock. I did the cost analysis, and baking my own bread saves me $16.34.
  • Cooking my own beans. Yes, canned beans are inexpensive, especially at Trader Joe's. But it's ridiculously cheap to buy a bag (especially at an Indian grocery) and cook your own. I'd like to do the cost comparison, but I know it's a lot cheaper.
  • Planning meals in greater detail. I've always planned my meals for the week, but I now have a daily planner devoted just to meals, ensuring that I can use leftover ingredients in other recipes before they go bad.
  • Mixing my weekly meal plan up with simple meals like scrambled tofu and sauteed greens and more complex meals that use more ingredients.
  • Reducing the amount of desserts I make. After I got Isa and Terry's Vegan Cupcakes and Vegan Cookies cookbooks, I went crazy making either cupcakes or cookies every single weekend...and then giving them away to neighbors or coworkers so that I didn't eat them all. Obvious waste of money!
In addition to fruit and veggies and other staples, the budget for this week goes to:
As I do every week, I baked my own whole-wheat bread. I also made veg stock and baked sesame pita pockets.

Check out the other participants:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Happy Herbivore Cincinnati Chili

There are three foods I sometimes miss: salami sandwiches, tuna fish salad sandwiches, and Cincinnati Chili (from Skyline in Cincinnati).

Of course, I had to try the version from The Happy Herbivore Cookbook. It uses bulgur wheat, a high-protein and high-fiber whole grain that's fat-free. The HH version was wonderful. It's spicy and slightly sweet like Skyline's and very filling. I had it over whole-wheat spaghetti but want to try it with vegan cheese sauce too.I paired it with a simple romaine salad topped with Caesar Chavez dressing from Appetite for Reduction. The cool flavor of the dressing went great with the spicy chili.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Appetite for Reduction: Garlicky Mushrooms and Kale

Garlic, mushrooms, and kale: simple but delicious. I made this as a side to go with leftovers tonight and really liked it. I'd definitely make it again with pasta or rice as a main dish or even in a tofu scramble. But as a quick and easy side, it's great. I can see why Isa says it's the recipe from the book she makes the most.

I Love Food More Than You

Recently I told my husband, "I love food more than you."

"You love food more than me?!" He asked incredulously.

"YES!" I said. "Definitely!"

He shook his head and said, "I always suspected. Now I know for sure."

Ha! Of course I meant, "I love food more than you love food."

I've always loved food (who doesn't?), but I'm positive that eating a vegan diet has changed my tastebuds so that I'm able to taste food in ways I never did before. The cheese, butter, and other dairy I put on everything as a vegetarian hid the food's true taste. And because cheese is addictive, I never quite liked food if it wasn't swimming in cheese or other dairy.

Yes, cheese is addictive, as this article in Vegetarian Times says: "[Cheese] is an addiction, says Neal Barnard, MD, VT's 'Ask the Doc' columnist, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and author of Breaking the Food Seduction. Actually, it's more accurate to say I'm hooked on casomorphins, the tiny, biologically active compounds produced when my body breaks down milk proteins. 'Casomorphins attach to the brain's opiate receptors to cause a calming effect in much the same way heroin and morphine do,' Barnard explains. 'In fact, since cheese is processed to express out all the liquid, it's an incredibly concentrated source of casomorphins—you might call it dairy crack.'"

In the same article, vegan chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz (whose many cookbooks I own and love), says that in order to kick the cheese addiction, you have to give it up completely. "You need to give yourself a couple of months without cheese, some time to let your taste buds catch up with your ethics," she says. "It might sound like deprivation at first, but your body will adjust. I started loving Brussels sprouts and butternut squash; I could taste the subtle difference between a raw and a toasted pumpkin seed. Once you figure out that you don't have to cover everything in cheese, you start to become almost like a supertaster."

I totally agree. After I eliminated dairy and my tastebuds got adjusted from being dairy-crack-free, I started to really love food--real, good-for-you, nutritious food like collard greens (my new current favorite), kale, and freshly cooked chickpeas.

My husband laughs when I bite into something and exclaim, "This is the best thing I've ever tasted!" I do that a lot. I just love food!

Have your tastebuds changed since eating vegan? I suspect this is common for all vegans. Please leave a comment and let me know!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Appetite for Reduction: Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Toasted Cumin Seeds

I didn't make a big, complicated Valentine's Day dinner tonight. Instead, I spent 15 minutes whipping up dinner so that I'd have the evening free with my husband instead of spending the night cooking in the kitchen. The Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Toasted Cumin Seeds may be the best meal I've ever made in 15 minutes!The dressing is a simple mix of lime juice, agave nectar, grapeseed oil, and toasted cumin seeds that's combined with quinoa, black beans, diced tomatoes, and chopped scallions, all of which are served on mixed salad greens. OK, so it's a summer salad, and it's the dead of winter. But WOW, this salad was awesome. The smokiness of the toasted cumin seeds pairs wonderfully with the light and slightly tart dressing. The notes say the quinoa soaks in the flavors so it's even better the next day, which is perfect because it's tomorrow's lunch. Plus, come on: quinoa, beans, doesn't get much more nutritious than that (and only 5 WeightWatchers PointsPlus values). I give it two huge thumbs up (and omnivore husband really liked it too) and can see this being a staple, especially in summer months when the refreshing taste will really hit the spot.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Herbivore Book Signing

Today was the Happy Herbivore Cookbook signing at Right by Nature in the Strip. Here's Lindsay Nixon (right), the cookbook author, and Nichelle, a fellow Pittsburgh vegan, dishing out samples of the fabulous Instant Cookie Dough from the cookbook. Mmmmm.It was great to talk to Lindsay, Nichelle, and Lindsay's friend Andrea about vegan cooking, vegan pets, and how great the cookbook is! Thanks for coming to Pittsburgh, Lindsay!

Roasted Mushroom Quesadillas

I love that so many recipes in Mark Bittman's Food Matters Cook Book teach basic techniques, like the Roasted Mushroom Quesadillas recipe. Roasting mushrooms is pretty basic, but I'd never tried it before this recipe. I love the chewy, meaty texture of roasted mushrooms and will also make them for salads, wraps, or in pastas. I'd also never baked quesadillas before. Bittman was right: the whole wheat tortillas puff up, so this quesadilla was like a savory pastry that was wonderful. It would be fantastic with tofu sour cream and salsa. I had neither, but still really liked it served with Sauteed Collards for dinner. Roasted Mushroom Quesadillas
Makes 1 quesadilla

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound button or cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • sprinkling of red pepper flakes (or a tablespoon minced chili pepper)
  • 1/4 cup vegan shredded cheese (I used Daiya mozzarella)
  • 2 whole wheat tortillas
  1. Preheat oven to 400. Add oil to baking sheet and put it in the oven for 2 minutes to let the oil get hot.
  2. Add the sliced mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  3. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until shrooms start releasing their moisture. (Note that Bittman's recipe calls for baking 20 minutes, which seems way too long.)
  4. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and sage and toss to coat. Bake another 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until they're dry but not burned. When done, add more salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Put the tortillas side by side on a baking sheet, sprinkle with the cheese (it's just enough to get the tortillas to stick together) and add the mushrooms. Bake 5-10 minutes until the cheese starts to melt and it starts to puff up.
  6. Put the tortillas together and press so cheese melds together. Bake another few minutes until it's golden and crisp. Serve immediately.

Happy Herbivore Breakfast Sausage Patties

This morning I made Breakfast Sausage Patties from The Happy Herbivore Cookbook. The recipe transforms GimmeLean sausage by adding quinoa, maple syrup, and liquid smoke. They were sooooo good.I had them on a breakfast sandwich with homemade whole-wheat bread. Amazing! At 8 grams of protein (and just 2 WeightWatchers PointsPlus values) a patty, these are great for a high-protein breakfast. I'd also crumble them up and add to pasta. Two thumbs up!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Herbivore Black Bean Brownies

I had to try these though I had no idea what to expect. Wow! I'm a believer!
First, I love that these were made with all natural, wholesome ingredients: bananas, agave nectar, cocoa, vanilla extract, oats, and, yes, a can of black beans. Second, I was literally licking the bowl. They're very good. They don't taste like regular fudgy brownies; I thought they tasted something like a chocolate/banana bread. But for a reduced-fat treat (3 WeightWatchers PointsPlus values), I thought they were great. I splurged on one piece and spread a very thin layer of peanut butter on top: YUM!

You can find the recipe on the Happy Herbivore website.

Appetite for Reduction: Jerk Asparagus

Really flavorful and simple to make, I loved this asparagus recipe from Appetite for Reduction. Asparagus are sauteed with garlic, ginger, allspice, red pepper flakes, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. I had it as a snack with some Cauliflower Hummus and homemade pita, but it would be a great main dish served over rice or even whole-wheat pasta, or as a salad topping.

Veganomicon Review: Cauliflower Hummus

Veganomicon included a reduced-fat version of Cauliflower Hummus for those of us who can devour a cup of hummus without thinking about all those calories adding up. This version uses a head of cooked cauliflower combined with chickpeas, a small amount of olive oil and tahini sauce, scallions, parsley, lemon juice, and garlic.I loved it. I thought it tasted great. The flavor isn't as intensively hummus-y as regular hummus, but for a reduced-fat version, it's really good. There are 5 WeightWatchers PointsPlus values in 1/4 cup of regular hummus. This version has just 1 in the same serving size! I served it with homemade sesame pitas.

Sesame Pita Pockets

I love all Mark Bittman's bread recipes in the Food Matters Cook Book. I make his no-knead, whole-wheat bread every week and have also made pizza dough and flatbread. They're all wonderful. Today I made his Sesame Pita Pockets for the second time.

They're not hard to make, just time-intensive because you need to let the dough rise a total of three times before baking. And, of course, there's the rolling out part of it. But it's worth it. They're so fresh and good. Something in the dough made of whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, instant yeast, salt, olive oil, and molasses makes them puff up while cooking so you can actually cut them open and have pocket pita.The recipe makes 12, and they freeze well, so it's easy to have homemade pitas on hand.I had them with Veganomicon Cauliflower Hummus. Delicious!

Happy Herbivore Chickpea Tacos

These tacos are fantastic! Mix some spices with soy sauce and lemon juice, combine with chickpeas, and bake them, and you get "Wow!" The crunchy chickpeas are really flavorful. I topped them with spinach, tomato, and taco sauce (I like my tacos saucy), and they were great. I'd also add these to salads, chili, or just to eat as a snack. I used the recipe in The Happy Herbivore Cookbook, but the author posted a version on her website.

I made these last night between work and going out, so I had very little time. They're really simple and quick to make. These will definitely be in my weeknight dinner rotation from now on.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Week 5: Project Food Budget

Week 5 of Reluctant Vegetarian's Project: Food Budget

Goal: $100
Actual: $144.59

Yikes! Could the overage be because I went grocery shopping six times, to Right By Nature, Trader Joe's, Giant Eagle, Giant Eagle Market District, Whole Foods, and Bombay Food Market? It was one of those weeks where, in order to use up leftover ingredients from one recipe, I had to buy one or two more things to make another. But really, I just bought too much. Here's how it all played out.

Spices: I spent $16 to re-stock some herbs and spices.

Fruits and Veggies: Same story. Each time I shopped, I combed the produce section for what was on sale. At one point I had three bunches of bananas overflowing from my fruit bowl.

Meals: I bought more food than I have time to cook. Now I need to feverishly cook so nothing goes to waste.

Meals include:
As usual, I saved money by baking my own whole wheat bread, baguettes, and pizza dough and will be cooking veg stock and baking pitas this weekend.

Lessons Learned:
  • Trader Joe's is not good for greens! Their mix of greens was $3.99, compared to $1.89 for a bunch at Giant Eagle. This week, kale and collards are on sale for $.89!
  • My appetite for trying new recipes is sometimes greater than my actual appetite. This weekend I bought a new vegan cookbook, which definitely fueled my cooking obsession.
  • Indian markets are great for spices. A huge bag is about $2.99, compared to a small container at the same price. I keep my spice containers and then refill them from these big bags.
  • I should NOT allow myself to go grocery shopping six times in a week. Ridiculous!
Hope everyone did better than I did this week!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Appetite for Reduction: Chickpea-Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

While we haven't yet started our next book for Cook Vegan Lover's Cookbook Club, Appetite for Reduction, I've been itching to make Everyday Chickpea-Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette. Tonight I just couldn't resist. I love the idea of a salad being a complete meal, with greens, grains, and beans, topped with a thick, homemade dressing.
I liked it but...I'm not a big mustard fan, and I could really taste the dressing's two teaspoons of Dijon. Next time I'll reduce the dressing to one teaspoon. I'll definitely make it again, as it was really quick, easy, and good...but will be better with less mustard.

Pureed White Beans with Fresh Herbs

I don't know about you, but I always have parsley left over from some recipe. This week I also had cooked navy beans left over from Sun-Dried Tomato Dip. So I pulled out this recipe I previously made and loved from Mark Bittman's Food Matters Cook Book. It's versatile, easy, quick, and really good. I had some for dinner tonight on homemade wheat baguette bread with more Veganomicon sauteed greens and a Chickpea-Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette from Appetite for Reduction.
Pureed White Beans with Fresh Herbs
4 servings

  • 1 tablespoon Earth Balance margarine (I used 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (I used 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 leek or a bunch of green onions or one regular onion, chopped
  • 1 cup mixed mild herbs, like parsley, cilantro, mint, basil, or chervil (I used parsley only)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, tarragon, or thyme
  • 3 cups cooked or canned cannellini, navy, or other white beans, drained, liquid reserved
  • About 1 cup bean-cooking liquid, stock, or water
  • Salt and black pepper
  1. Put the Earth Balance and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the leek and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped herbs and cook a minute or 2 more.
  2. If you want the mixture super-smooth, transfer it--along with the beans--to a food processor or blender and process, adding as much liquid as you need to make a smooth but not watery puree. (This is what I did.) If you want a lumpier texture, mash the beans in the pan with a fork, adding liquid slowly to get them as soupy as you like.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve warm or room temperature.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Veganomicon Review: Sauteed Collards

In my quest to fit more super-nutritious dark, leafy greens into my diet, tonight I tried the second Veganomicon recipe for cooked greens, Sauteed Collards (first was Easy Stir-Fried Leafy Greens).

Using this mix of turnip, mustard, and collard greens plus spinach from Trader Joe's was a mistake. Not only was it more than twice as much ($3.99) as a bunch of collards at Giant Eagle ($1.79), but the spinach cooked up so much quicker than everything else and got all mushy while the other greens cooked. Aside from that, this recipe was fantastic! First, you saute a bunch of garlic (4 cloves for 1 pound greens) in a bit of olive oil (I used less than the recipe calls for; Veganomicon tends to use too much oil for me). Then you add your greens, saute for a few minutes, then add the concoction that makes these greens so yummy: vegetable broth with soy sauce and liquid smoke (1 teaspoon each of soy sauce and liquid smoke in 1/2 cup vegetable broth for 1 pound of greens). They cook for a few minutes in the broth; mine cooked unevenly because of the mix of greens. Still! Delicious! A year ago before I started eating vegan, I'd never imagined that I'd be saying "Mmmm!" while eating a plate of greens, but here I am with a belly full of greens and a smile on my face. Two thumbs up!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Happy Herbivore Chicken-Style Seitan

I've never made seitan before, but the photo of the Chicken-Style Seitan in The Happy Herbivore Cookbook looks so amazing, I've been dying to dry it.

Turns out, making seitan is simple. The Happy Herbivore version is made with vital wheat gluten and seasonings. You mix them together with water to form a dough, cut it into pieces, and get something that looks like this.Then you add the dough to a pot of broth and seasonings and cook it for an hour. You then bake it for about 25 minutes until it forms a skin similar to chicken. The recipe suggested using the leftover cooking broth to make gravy, which was super easy to do by just adding some soymilk and a little cornstarch.

The result:Yum! Delicious on its own covered in gravy, but I'll definitely make this again for wraps or maybe to add to pasta.