Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Vegan Cupcake Heaven

I love getting a new cookbook. I think they're the best kind of books, well, right behind historical fiction. Anyway, today I got my amazon shipment, and my long awaited copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. After failing miserably on a few cake recipes, I wanted to have something reliable on the shelf for reference. Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero are my vegan mentors (even if they don't know it.) I decided to make the Basic Chocolate Cupcake recipe along with Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting. My go-to chocolate cupcake recipe used to be Martha Stewart's one bowl chocolate cake, but no longer. These cupcakes are perfect, moist and super chocolaty. That may be due to the fact that I bought some rockin' Valhrona dutch process cocoa. French chocolate gets me all googly eyed and dreaming of Europe. Aren't cupcakes cute? They kind of have a little puppy quality. They always make me want to stop and saw, "Awwww....How cute!" Anyway, I can't wait to try more recipes. Yay!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How I Love Falafel

Are you starting to wonder if I am ever, ever going to lose that last 10 lbs? I promise, I'm not only eating fried food. But, falafel is kind of healthy (I like self delusion obviously.) Protein fried in healthy fat couldn't be that bad right? Anyway, we love falafel around here. It's one of Nate's favorites, so I can never go wrong if I call him in the afternoon cluing him in on what's for dinner. He likes it when he knows I'm not testing something totally weird and obscure on him. I'm a fan of the Joy of Cooking version. I've tried many different recipes, but this is my favorite (so far anyway.) I've found that I'm not crazy about falafel recipes that use canned beans.  They end up mushy. No bueno in my opinion.

Perfect Falafel

1 1/2 c. Dried Chickpeas (Rinsed and soaked overnight)
1/2 c. chopped onions
1/4 c packed fresh parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 t. ground cumin
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. ground red pepper

2 T. Flour

Heat oil of your choice over medium high heat in heavy duty pan about 1/2 inch deep. Pulse all ingredients in a food processor, but not too long or they'll fall apart in the oil. Add mixture to bowl, and stir in flour. Form into little flying saucers. Let hang out for around 15 minutes, then fry for about 4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.  
For the sauce, mix 1/4 c. tahini, 1/4 c. water, 1-2 T. lemon juice and a pinch of salt. YUM!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vegan Fried Okra and Succotash

I'm already beginning to mourn the end of summer. Today was the first day I felt a little foretelling of Autumn in the air. While the fall is very dear to me, I'll miss the juicy red tomatoes of summer and the farmer's markets. My father in law has a little plot in a community garden.  He brought over some fresh cherry tomatoes and okra. Sometimes my dinners are just like this. Nothing fancy, just a bunch of color all thrown on a plate, but nothing makes me happier. 

One recipe I'm completely obsessed with (might not be a strong enough word) is Alicia Silverstone's Summertime Succotash from her book The Kind Diet. I probably make it at least once a week in some form or another. I didn't grow up on Lima beans, but she has completely sold me on them. I've made this recipe with all fresh ingredients (including once fresh lima beans I scored from my favorite vendor), but sometimes I totally cheat if I don't have fresh on hand. I finally took back my copy of the book to the library and ordered it myself. It's worth it I think. Here's a total cheater version of the recipe, but trying it just as she wrote it is definitely worth a go if you have the book. I love it with all fresh ingredients, but saving time is a great bonus every once in a while.

Cheater Summertime Succotash
1 - 2 T. Earth Balance
1 Can of Organic Butter Beans (the original calls for frozen lima beans)
1 Can of Organic Sweet Corn 
1/2 Red Onion, diced
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
A cup or two of fresh Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in 2
1 T. Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Fresh Parsley or Basil

Heat butter in large heavy duty pot. Sauté onions for around 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté an additional minute. Add butter beans and corn. Heat through, and then add tomatoes. You don't want your tomatoes to lose their firmness or juice, so (really) don't keep them in long at all. Then toss in balsamic, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Seriously delicious. I love all the textures involved.

Both of my in-laws are from the south, and are A-mazing cooks. Seriously. My brother in law calls it the best restaurant in town. While they are definitely meat eaters, there are always a million delicious sides. My mother in law says my father in law gets all the credit for the main dish, but her sides are always to die for. Since they brought me over a bunch of okra, I HAD to fry it. Ok, maybe I didn't have to, but is there really any other better way to eat okra? Absolutely not I say! But maybe that's why this last ten pounds is so slow to come off. I veganized his proportions, and they turned out perfectly.

Vegan Fried Okra

2/3 C. All Purpose Flour
1/3 C. Organic Cornmeal
1 t. Kosher Salt
1 t. Paprika
1/2 t. Garlic Powder
Pound or 2 of Fresh Okra
1 C. Unsweetened Soy Milk
Canola Oil

Heat canola in heavy duty pan over medium high heat. Sift together dry ingredients. My father in law says that you have to bread each batch right before dropping them in the pan or it doesn't work the same. Drop a large handful of okra in soy milk. Remove and add to cornmeal mixture. Toss to coat. Drop in the pan, and fry until golden brown. Taste before adding any additional salt. Enjoy :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

In search of the perfect wrap

So if you've wondered where I've been, I've been on a quest to make the perfect wrap. There's a little vegan restaurant called FÜD here in Kansas City that we've been to a few times. There they have the most incredible wraps and other delectable fare. I'm not usually one to order a glorified sandwich, but man are they good at FÜD. I think I'm most fascinated with the sauces that adorn almost every dish. Each sauce is of course vegan, and spectacularly great. I wouldn't know how to replicate them if I tried. The owner is going to have some classes that I'm really excited about. Being there has totally inspired me to come up with my own wraps that are super delicious. I love wraps because they are the perfect throw together lunch or dinner. This particular wrap was sautéed onions, peppers, mushrooms, garlic and generously sprinkled with curry powder. I mixed a few tablespoons of vegenaise, a few more sprinkles of curry, a little nutritional yeast and thinned it with a tad of water for the sauce. I think I may have to make this one again :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Flippin' Awesome Vegan Cinnamon Rolls

The way to Nate's heart usually involves a route taken through a pastry shop. However, for some reason unbeknownst to me (even though I've tried a ba-jillion times), yeast breads and pastries don't usually work out for me. This winter whilst locked up during a ridiculous two-week-longer than usual winter break due to snow, I made loaves a' plenty.  None of them were good, and I'm not just saying that. I would love to be a baker's apprentice, because I obviously have no clue. When I found this recipe for Quick Mini Cinnabuns over at Vegan Pandamonium, I had to try them. There is no yeast involved here, which gave me kind of a chance at not royally messing them up. The recipe uses whole wheat flour which eases my mind at least somewhat to their nutritional value (hardy har :)  The recipe title is true; they are quick and wonderfully easy. The hubs and kiddos loved them which always makes me smile. After failing on a batch of brownies yesterday, my baking self esteem was battered.  Making these helped me ease the pain of being responsible for the dry, crappy brownies I took to yesterday's family dinner.  Hooray for baking success! 

Nate's Two Cents: Tara puts the "sin" in cinnabuns, no question about it.  I thought I had broken my bread addiction, I really did.  Two months of vegetables and beans and colorful fruits and crunchy granola had seduced me into forgetting my vulnerability.  I felt like Superman, laughing at the donut temptations that used to do me in.  But every man has his kryptonite.  And mine takes the form of warm, sweet, fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon buns.  So when Tara put these in front of me, my delusions of strength suddenly came crashing down...I couldn't say no...I tried to stop at one, I really did!  But the smell, that cursed devil smell of cinnamon and sugar.  I have nothing more to say.  I have been humbled.  I am defeated.  Must...have...another...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Morgan's Magic - Vegan Refried Beans

Since becoming a vegan, I've found the greatest food blogs. I've taken to cooking up some of the recipes I have on a growing list from other blog writers over the last week. Vegan cooks are the most creative of foodie folks because they have to substitute and re-create recipes out of unconventional ingredients. I love learning about new ways to cook. I figure since I already have to cook, it might as well be fun right? Morgan over at Little House of Veggies is a perfect example of that kind of creative cook who always make you think "Huh! What a great idea!"  My oven is currently broken, so when I saw Morgan's Amazing Refried Beans recipe (which is serendipitously made in a crock pot), I thought it would be a perfect time to try them. Who doesn't love coming home to a house filled with the aromas of a Mexican cantina? Morgan's recipes are always thoughtfully seasoned, so there is rarely an occasion where you would want to change anything. These beans were delicious, and SO easy! I used my stick blender to smash them up. By the way, tostadas are married people food. If you have a really cute boyfriend you're trying to impress, tostadas are out. Nate and I were laughing at each other and the huge mess we were making of ourselves, but we're stuck with one another, so who cares!  Rather than tostada shells, I packed up a couple of bean burritos instead for Nate's lunch, so he doesn't freak out his co-workers with tostada all over his face :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hurry Up Alfredo Sauce - Vegan Yum Yum

Something creamy sounded good today. Every once and a while I miss heavy whipping cream. I'm still longing to find a vegan crème brûlée recipe (since that was the dessert I'm asked to bring to gatherings most often), but we'll see if I can find one that remotely passes as the real thing. Yeah, yeah, real cream isn't exactly thigh friendly, but it sure tastes good. I always have a recipe I've found here or there that I'd like to try. I had seen the recipe for Hurry Up Alfredo on Vegan Yum Yum and wanted to try it, but even more so after Kylea over at Veganizing tested it out and loved it. This sauce is creamy for sure, and while it doesn't have the same flavor as a traditional alfredo, it is pretty darn good! It is probably just as fattening as regular alfredo, but certainly more heart healthy. It definitely satisfies your cream craving. One word of advice on this recipe; make sure to use low sodium shoyu or tamari as suggested. In the pot it tasted too salty to me, but once I poured it over the pasta and veggies, it was just about right. I missed the low-sodium part on the recipe and used regular. I would have added less soy to make up for the difference, had I been a more patient recipe follower.  Man, this sauce made me wish I had a Vita-Mix blender. Ah well! Someday :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Vegan Chickpea Cutlets

Last winter my friend Kylea went veg for a full month to see if it would be an experiment that she could sustain for her family. She's one of those people who inspire you in many ways. I admire her for being more balanced than most, not just going out and buying organic veggies, but growing them in her own backyard, and for being one of the sweetest moms and wives I have met. It had never occurred to me to be a vegan before she did it. The concept seemed too difficult even though I had spent many years as a vegetarian. Once I started reading this summer about why a vegan diet is beneficial, I remembered her experiment. We began talking about recipes and what her successes were previously. It's so nice to have a friend to talk with about vegan recipes who doesn't think I'm a total weirdo. In the past few months, she has gone vegan again, but this time has taken her whole family along for the ride as well. She has started a new blog called Veganizing, where she has totally blown me away with the variety of items she has been cooking. Tonight I tried the recipe for Chickpea Cutlets. They were really yummy! While the texture is not exactly like chicken, the crispy outside gives you the same satisfaction. I multiplied the recipe by one and one half because one can of chickpeas equals about 1 1/2 cups rather than 1 cup that the recipe calls for. I still only used 1/4 cup of vital wheat gluten even though I one and a halved the recipe. I agree with Kylea that this ingredient is better used in smaller quantities. Oh, and by the way, wear an apron for goodness sake! This little suckers will pop you with hot oil if you're not careful. Check out Kylea's blog. I'm so impressed with all she's done in such a short time!